• breast cancer;
  • mouse models;
  • estrogen signaling;
  • ERα;
  • BRCA1

Aberrations in estrogen signaling increase breast cancer risk. Molecular mechanisms that impact breast cancer initiation, promotion, and progression can be investigated using genetically engineered mouse models. Increasing estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) expression levels twofold is sufficient to initiate and promote breast cancer progression. Initiation and promotion can be increased by p53 haploinsufficiency and by coexpressing the nuclear coactivators amplified in breast cancer 1 (AIB1) or the splice variant AIB1Δ3. Progression to invasive cancer is found with coexpression of these nuclear coactivators as well as following a single dose of 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene. Loss of signal transducer and activator of transcription 5a reduces the prevalence of initiation and promotion but does not protect from invasive cancer development. Cyclin D1 loss completely interrupts mammary epithelial proliferation and survival when ERα is overexpressed. Loss of breast cancer gene 1 increases estrogen signaling and cooperates with ERα overexpression in initiation, promotion, and progression of mammary cancer.