Potential interactions between Brca1 or Brca2 gene defects and DES exposure

Mice heterozygous for a Brca1 or Brca2 mutation display distinct mammary gland and ovarian phenotypes in response to diethylstilbestrol

DES has been shown, in various systems, to induce sister chromatid exchange, unscheduled DNA synthesis, chromosomal aberrations, and mitotic spindle disruption and may be able to act as an initiating agent. In addition, DES treatment clearly resulted in massive proliferation of the mammary ductal epithelium of exposed animals in this study. If the wild-type allele of the Brca1 or Brca2 genes had been mutated, DES may have been an effective promoter of carcinogenesis in the mammary gland.

2000 Study Abstract

Women who inherit mutations in the breast cancer susceptibility genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, are predisposed to the development of breast and ovarian cancer. We used mice with a Brca1 mutation on a BALB/cJ inbred background (BALB/cB1+/- mice) or a Brca2 genetic alteration on the 129/SvEv genetic background (129B2+/- mice) to investigate potential gene-environment interactions between defects in these genes and treatment with the highly estrogenic compound diethylstilbestrol (DES).

Beginning at 3 weeks of age, BALB/cB1+/-, 129B2+/-, and wild-type female mice were fed a control diet or a diet containing 640 ppb DES for 26 weeks. DES treatment caused vaginal epithelial hyperplasia and hyperkeratosis, uterine inflammation, adenomyosis, and fibrosis, as well as oviductal smooth muscle hypertrophy. The severity of the DES response was mouse strain specific. The estrogen-responsive 129/SvEv strain exhibited an extreme response in the reproductive tract, whereas the effect in BALB/cJ and C3H/HeN(MMTV-) mice was less severe. The Brca1 and Brca2 genetic alterations influenced the phenotypic response of BALB/cJ and 129/SvEv inbred strains, respectively, to DES in the mammary gland and ovary. The mammary duct branching morphology was inhibited in DES-treated BALB/cB1+/- mice compared with similarly treated BALB/cB1+/+ littermates. In addition, the majority of BALB/cB1+/- mice had atrophied ovaries, whereas wild-type littermates were largely diagnosed with arrested follicular development. The mammary ductal architecture in untreated 129B2+/- mice revealed a subtle inhibited branching phenotype that was enhanced with DES treatment. However, no significant differences were observed in ovarian pathology between 129B2+/+ and 129B2+/- mice.

These data suggest that estrogenic compounds may modulate mammary gland or ovarian morphology in BALB/cB1+/- and 129B2+/- mice. These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that compromised DNA repair processes in cells harboring Brca1 or Brca2 mutations lead to inhibited growth and differentiation compared with the proliferative response of wild-type cells to DES treatment.

Sources and more information
  • Mice heterozygous for a Brca1 or Brca2 mutation display distinct mammary gland and ovarian phenotypes in response to diethylstilbestrol, Cancer research, Volume 60, Issue 13, July 2000.
  • Featured image BRCA1 and BRCA2 credit genetics4medics.

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