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Gene Responsible For Mammary Gland Function, When Mutated Results in Leukemias

h surround the tiny sacs in which milk accumulates, contract and squeeze the milk fluid into ducts throughout the mammary gland in response to nursing. The ducts, in turn, merge and empty their contents to nursing newborns. In addition, the scientists found evidence that MKL1 may normally be required for maintaining milk production by the mammary glands during the period following birth.

Specifically, the investigators showed that the expression (level of activity) of genes that are normally active only in mammary glands after weaning, when no milk is needed, is abnormally high in the absence of MKL1. In other words, when MKL1 was missing, these mammary gland genes behaved as if the mouse pups were no longer nursing and did not need milk. The researchers also reported that the mouse embryos that did not survive had weak heart muscles that could not withstand stress in the uterus. This probably reflects the fact that some embryos in a large litter do not have a strong connection to the mother's placenta and therefore receive less blood and oxygen than their litter mates, Morris explained.

‘The heart muscle of the normal mouse embryo can withstand the stress of mild oxygen and nutrient starvation,' he said. 'But in the absence of MKL1, the developing heart muscle simply gives out if stressed.' That's probably why 40 percent of mouse embryos lacking the gene didn't survive. 'The discovery that MKL1 is a key player in activating specific genes linked to mammary gland function in otherwise healthy female mice is part of a larger story,' he added. 'It's a significant step that also gives us insight into the manner by which MKL1 mutations cause leukemia and represents progress on the long road to ultimately increasing the cure rate for AMKL.'

Source: Eurekaler
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