Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor Signaling Is Essential for Normal Mammary Gland Development and Stem Cell Function§


  • Author contributions: A.C.P.: conception and design, collection and assembly of data, and manuscript writing; T.B., X.B., and K.R.: collection and assembly of data and manuscript editing; S.H.: data analysis and interpretation; J.M.R.: financial support, conception and design, manuscript writing, and final approval of manuscript.

  • Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.

  • §

    First published online in STEM CELLSEXPRESS October 23, 2012.


Fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling plays an important role in embryonic stem cells and adult tissue homeostasis, but the function of FGFs in mammary gland stem cells is less well defined. Both FGFR1 and FGFR2 are expressed in basal and luminal mammary epithelial cells (MECs), suggesting that together they might play a role in mammary gland development and stem cell dynamics. Previous studies have demonstrated that the deletion of FGFR2 resulted only in transient developmental defects in branching morphogenesis. Using a conditional deletion strategy, we investigated the consequences of FGFR1 deletion alone and then the simultaneous deletion of both FGFR1 and FGFR2 in the mammary epithelium. FGFR1 deletion using a keratin 14 promoter-driven Cre-recombinase resulted in an early, yet transient delay in development. However, no reduction in functional outgrowth potential was observed following limiting dilution transplantation analysis. In contrast, a significant reduction in outgrowth potential was observed upon the deletion of both FGFR1 and FGFR2 in MECs using adenovirus-Cre. Additionally, using a fluorescent reporter mouse model to monitor Cre-mediated recombination, we observed a competitive disadvantage following transplantation of both FGFR1/R2-null MECs, most prominently in the basal epithelial cells. This correlated with the complete loss of the mammary stem cell repopulating population in the FGFR1/R2-attenuated epithelium. FGFR1/R2-null MECs were partially rescued in chimeric outgrowths containing wild-type MECs, suggesting the potential importance of paracrine mechanisms involved in the maintenance of the basal epithelial stem cells. These studies document the requirement for functional FGFR signaling in mammary stem cells during development. STEM Cells2013;31:178–189