Mammary gland homeostasis employs serotonergic regulation of epithelial tight junctions

Malinda A. Stull, Vaibhav Pai, Archie J. Vomachka, Aaron M. Marshall, George A. Jacob and Nelson D. Horseman

PNAS October 16, 2007 vol. 104 no. 42 16708-16713


Homeostatic control of volume within the alveolar spaces of the mammary gland has been proposed to involve a feedback system mediated by serotonin signaling. In this article, we describe some of the mechanisms underlying this feedback based on studies of a human normal mammary epithelial cell line (MCF10A) and mouse mammary epithelium. Mammary serotonin was elevated during lactation and after injection of 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). The genes encoding the serotonin reuptake transporter (SERT) and the type 7 serotonin receptor (5-HT7) were expressed in human and mouse mammary epithelial cells, and serotonin caused a concentration-dependent increase of cAMP in MCF10A cells. Mouse and human mammary epithelial cells formed polarized membranes, in which tight junction activity was monitored. Treatment of mammary epithelial membranes with serotonin receptor antagonists increased their transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER). Antagonist and agonist effects on TEER were mediated by receptors on the basolateral face of the membranes. Our results suggest a process in which serotonin accumulates in the interstitial fluid surrounding the mammary secretory epithelium and is detected by 5-HT7 receptors, whereupon milk secretion is inhibited. One mechanism responsible for this process is serotonin-mediated opening of tight junctions, which dissipates the transepithelial gradients necessary for milk secretion.

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