During pregnancy, luminal and basal epithelial cells of the adult mammary gland proliferate and differentiate resulting in remodeling of the adult gland. While pathways that control this process have been characterized in the gland as a whole, the contribution of specific cell subtypes, in particular the basal compartment, remains largely unknown. Basal cells provide structural and contractile support, however they also orchestrate the communication between the stroma and the luminal compartment at all developmental stages. Using RNA-seq, we show that basal cells are extraordinarily transcriptionally dynamic throughout pregnancy when compared to luminal cells. We identified gene expression changes that define specific basal functions acquired during development that led to the identification of novel markers. Enrichment analysis of gene sets from 24 mouse models for breast cancer pinpoint to a potential new function for insulin-like growth factor 1 (Igf1r) in the basal epithelium during lactogenesis. We establish that β-catenin signaling is activated in basal cells during early pregnancy, and demonstrate that this activity is mediated by lysophosphatidic acid receptor 3 (Lpar3). These findings identify novel pathways active during functional maturation of the adult mammary gland.
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