The Physical Rules Governing Bilayer Self-Organization in the Human Mammary Epithelium

Sponsor: University of California Berkeley

Location(s): United States


Understanding the intrinsic and extrinsic cues that direct the assembly of cells into tissues is of central importance for understanding morphogenesis, tissue homeostasis, and the onset of disease. We study mixtures of human mammary luminal and myoepithelial cells and their dependency on the microenvironment as they self-organize into bilayered structures reminiscent of the mammary gland. Recently, self-organization was shown to be a lineage-intrinsic property of mammary epithelial cells that heavily relies on the differential expression of cadherins on the cells’ surface. Our preliminary results add to this model but suggest that the microenvironment plays a significant, if not dominant role, in this process. We hypothesize that interactions with basement membrane proteins generate polarity signals that direct cadherin ligation and cell positioning. Successfully characterizing the processes directing self organization of luminal and myoepithelial cells will improve in-vitro 3D culture models of the mammary epithelium and advance our understanding of the physicochemical forces governing structure formation and maintenance of epithelial tissues.