Collections > UNC Scholarly Publications > BioMed Central > Molecular analysis reveals heterogeneity of mouse mammary tumors conditionally mutant for Brca1

Abstract Background Development of therapies for patients with BRCA1 mutations has been hampered by lack of readily available in vitro and in vivo models. We recently showed that transplantation of transgenic mammary tumors as cell suspensions into naïve recipients generates reproducible tumors with remarkable stability of gene expression profile. We examined the expression profiles of original and serially transplanted mammary tumors from Brca1 deficient mice, and tumor derived cell lines to validate their use for preclinical testing and studies of tumor biology. Methods Original tumors, serially transplanted and multiple cell lines derived from Brca1 mammary tumors were characterized by morphology, gene and protein expression, and cell surface markers. Results Gene expression among Brca1 tumors showed more heterogeneity than among previously characterized tumors from MMTV-PyMT and -Wnt1 models. Gene expression data segregated Brca1 tumors into 3 distinct types: basal, mixed luminal, and tumors with epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Serial transplantation of individual tumors and multiple cell lines derived from the original tumors recapitulated the molecular characteristics of each tumor of origin. One tumor had distinct features of EMT and gave rise to cell lines that contained a distinct CD44+/CD24-/low population that may correlate with human breast cancer stem cells. Conclusion Although individual tumors expanded by transplantation maintain the genomic profile of the original tumors, the heterogeneity among Brca1 tumors limits the extent of their use for preclinical testing. However, cell lines offer a robust material for understanding tumor biology and response to therapies driven by BRCA1 deficiency.