Chang, C. C., Sun, W., Saitoh, M., Tai, M-H. and Trosko, J. E. A Human Breast Epithelial Cell Type with Stem Cell Characteristics as Target Cells for Carcinogenesis.
Two types of human breast epithelial cells (HBEC) have been characterized. In contrast to Type II HBEC, which express basal epithelial cell phenotypes, Type I HBEC are deficient in gap junctional intercellular communication and are capable of anchorage-independent growth and of expressing luminal epithelial cell markers, estrogen receptors, and stem cell characteristics (i.e. the ability to differentiate into other cell types and to form budding/ductal organoids on Matrigel). A comparative study of these two types of cells has revealed a high susceptibility of Type I HBEC to immortalization by SV40 large T antigen, although both types of cells are equally capable of acquiring an extended life span (bypassing senescence) after transfection with SV40. The immortalization was accompanied by elevation of a low level of telomerase activity in the parental cells after mid-passage (∼60 cumulative population doubling levels). Thus HBEC do have a low level of telomerase activity, and Type I HBEC with stem cell characteristics are more susceptible to telomerase activation and immortalization, a mechanism which might qualify them as target cells for breast carcinogenesis. The immortalized Type I HBEC can be converted to highly tumorigenic cells by further treatment with X rays (2 Gy × 2) and transfection with a mutated ERBB2 (also known as NEU) oncogene, resulting in the expression of p185ERBB2 which is tyrosine phosphorylated.