Expression of FOXC1, a forkhead box transcription factor, correlates with the human basal-like breast cancer (BLBC) subtype, and functional analyses have revealed its importance for in vitro invasiveness of BLBC cells. Women diagnosed with this breast tumor subtype have a poorer outcome because of the lack of targeted therapies; thus, continued investigation of factors driving these tumors is critical to uncover novel therapeutic targets. Several processes that dictate normal mammary morphogenesis parallel cancer progression, and enforced expression of FOXC1 can induce a progenitor state in more-differentiated mammary epithelial cells. Consequently, evaluating how FOXC1 functions in the normal gland is critical to further understand BLBC biology. Although FOXC1 is well known to control normal development of a number of tissues, its role in the mammary gland has not yet been investigated. Herein, we describe FOXC1 expression patterning in the normal breast, where it is localized to the basal/myoepithelium, suggesting that FOXC1 would be required for normal development. However, mammary glands lacking Foxc1 have no overt defect in ductal outgrowth, alveologenesis, or lineage specification. Of significant interest, we found that expression of FOXC1 is enriched in the normal luminal progenitor population, which is the postulated cell of origin of BLBC. These results indicate that FOXC1 is unnecessary for mammary morphogenesis and that its role in BLBC likely involves processes that are unrelated to cell lineage specification.
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Vol. 89 • No. 1