Endocrine control of canine mammary neoplasms: serum reproductive hormone levels and tissue expression of steroid hormone, prolactin and growth hormone receptors

Michèle Spoerri, Franco Guscetti, Sonja Hartnack, Alois Boos, Christine Oei, Orsolya Balogh, Renata M Nowaczyk, Erika Michel, Iris M Reichler, Mariusz P Kowalewski

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    BACKGROUND: Neoplasms of the mammary gland are among the most common diseases in female domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). It is assumed that reproductive hormones influence tumorigenesis in this species, although the precise role of the endocrine milieu and reproductive state is subject to continuing discussion. In line with this, a recent systematic review of available data on the development of mammary neoplasms revealed weak evidence for risk reduction after neutering and an effect of age at neutering. Investigation of several hormone receptors has revealed decreased expression of estrogen receptor-alpha (ERα, ESR1), progesterone (P4) receptor (PGR), prolactin (PRL) receptor (PRLR) and growth hormone receptor (GHR) associated with neoplastic differentiation of mammary tissues. In other studies, increased levels of estrogens, progesterone and prolactin were found in serum and/or tissue homogenates of dogs with malignant neoplasms. However, the association between these entities within one animal population was never previously examined. Therefore, this study investigated the association between circulating serum concentrations of estradiol-17β, progesterone and prolactin, and gene expression of ERα (ESR1), ERβ (ESR2), PGR, PRLR, PRL and GHR, with respect to reproductive state (spayed vs. intact) and cycle stage (anestrus vs. diestrus). Additionally, the expression of E-cadherin (CDH-1) was evaluated as a possible indicator of metastatic potential.

    RESULTS: For all receptors, the lowest gene expression was found in malignant tumors compared to normal tissues of affected dogs. Steroid levels were not influenced by their corresponding receptor expression in mammary neoplasms, but increased PRL levels were negatively associated with low PRLR gene expression in malignant tumors. The expression of CDH-1 was influenced by tumor malignancy and cycle stage, i.e., the highest gene expression was found in benign mammary tumors in diestrous dogs compared to normal and malignant mammary tissues of anestrous and spayed dogs.

    CONCLUSIONS: Herein, it has been confirmed that transformation towards malignant neoplasms is associated with significant reduction of gene expression of particular hormone receptors. Only PRLR in malignant tumors seems to be influenced by circulating PRL levels. In dogs, CDH-1 can be used as a prognostic factor; its expression, however, in benign tumors is influenced by cycle stage.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalBMC Veterinary Research
    Issue number235
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • Dog
    • Mammary neoplasm
    • Sex hormones
    • Hormone receptors


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