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Devan E Thompson, Megan D Siwicky contributed equally to this work.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
DET performed the western blot, immunofluorescence and RT-PCR for Cav1 while MDS sectioned all of the tissue, performed the histology and immunohistochemistry. RAM ran the project and wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Caveolin-1 is a scaffolding protein found in plasma membrane invaginations known as caveolae. Caveolin-1 can regulate a number of intracellular processes such as signal transduction, cholesterol metabolism and vesicular transport. With respect to breast cancer caveolin-1 has been observed in both tumor cells and stromal cells surrounding tumors however most of the recent research has focused on how the loss of caveolin-1 in the stromal cells surrounding the tumor alters the tumor microenvironment.
Caveolin-1 expression was evaluated in (1) mammary tumors induced by the transgenic overexpression of the type I insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF-IR), (2) mammary tumors that became independent of IGF-IR signalling and acquired a claudin-low genotype, (3) two murine mammary epithelial tumor cell lines and (4) two murine mammary claudin-low tumor cell lines.
We found that mammary tumors induced by IGF-IR overexpression expressed low levels of caveolin-1 while mammary tumors that became independent of IGF-IR signalling expressed considerably higher levels of caveolin-1. Interestingly, pockets of caveolin-1 positive cells could be observed in some of the IGF-IR-induced mammary tumors and these caveolin-1 positive cells were associated with tumor cells that expressed basal cytokeratins (cytokeratins 5 and 14). This caveolin-1 expression pattern was maintained in the murine mammary tumor cell lines in that the epithelial mammary tumor cell lines expressed little or no caveolin-1 while the claudin-low cell lines expressed caveolin-1.
Our model indicates that mammary tumor cells with epithelial characteristics lack caveolin-1 while mesenchymal tumor cells express caveolin-1 suggesting that caveolin-1 may serve as a marker of mammary tumor cells with mesenchymal characteristics such as claudin-low breast tumors.