Murine mammary epithelium grows in association with predominantly adipocyte stroma in vivo. To investigate potential growth-promoting effects of adipocytes on mammary epithelium, we developed a co-culture system of mammary epithelium and adipocytes by taking advantage of the 3T3-L1 cell line. These cells undergo adipocyte differentiation when the culture reaches confluence and growth ceases. Mid-pregnant murine mammary epithelium was plated on lethally irradiated feeder layers of 3T3-L1 adipocytes, undifferentiated 3T3-L1 cells, 3T3-C2 fibroblasts (a subclone of 3T3 cells that does not undergo adipocyte differentiation), or tissue culture plastic. Mammary epithelial colony size on adipocyte feeder layers was 2-fold larger than colonies on 3T3-C2 cells and 4-fold larger than colonies on tissue culture plastic. Measurement of tritiated thymidine [3H]TdR incorporation and labelling index in mammary cells was significantly higher on adipocytes than on other feeder layers or plastic. There was a 6-fold increase in mammary cell number after 5 days in culture when mammary epithelium was plated on substrate-attached material ('extracellular matrix') derived from 3T3-L1 cells and a 4-fold increase in cell number when plated on plastic in conditioned medium derived from 3T3-L1 adipocytes compared with growth on plastic in unconditioned medium. We conclude that interaction of mammary epithelium with adipocytes results in a marked increase in proliferation of mammary epithelium and that extracellular components may mediate this effect.
View details for Web of Science ID A1984SF73800013
View details for PubMedID 6698114