Attempts to study endothelial–epithelial interactions in the human breast have been hampered by lack of protocols for long-term cultivation of breast endothelial cells (BRENCs). The aim of this study was to establish long-term cultures of BRENCs and to compare their phenotypic traits with the tissue of origin. Microvasculature was localized in situ by immunohistochemistry in breast samples. From this tissue, collagen-rich stroma and adipose tissue were dissected mechanically and further disaggregated to release microvessel organoids. BRENCs were cultured from these organoids in endothelial specific medium and characterized by staining for endothelial markers. Microvessels were a prominent feature of intralobular tissue as evidenced by immunostaining against endothelial specific markers such as CD31, VE-cadherin, and von Willebrand factor (VWF). Double staining against VE-cadherin and lymphatic vessel endothelial hyaluronan receptor-1 (LYVE-1) showed that blood and lymphatic vessels could be distinguished. An antibody against CD31 was used to refine protocols for isolation of microvasculature from reduction mammoplasties. BRENCs retained critical traits even at high passage, including uptake of low-density lipoprotein, and had E-selectin induced upon treatment with tumor necrosis factor-α. The first signs of senescence in passage 14 were accompanied by gain of trisomy 11. At passage 18 cells showed chromosomal aberrations and growth arrest as revealed by β-galactosidase staining. We demonstrate here that breast microvasculature may serve as a large-scale source for expansion of BRENCs with molecular and functional traits preserved. These cells will form the basis for studies on the role of endothelial cells in breast morphogenesis.
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Vol. 42 • No. 10