The multidrug resistance efflux transporter ATP-binding cassette subfamily G member 2 (ABCG2) is not only overexpressed in certain drug-resistant cancers but is also highly expressed in the mammary gland during lactation, carrying xenobiotics and nutrients into milk. We sought to investigate the molecular mechanisms involved in the upregulation of ABCG2 during lactation. Expression profiling of different mouse Abcg2 mRNA isoforms (E1a, E1b, and E1c) revealed that E1b is predominantly expressed and induced in the lactating mouse mammary gland. Despite this induction, analyses of CpG methylation status and published ChIP-seq datasets reveal that E1b promoter sequences in the virgin gland are already hypomethylated and marked with the open chromatin histone mark H3K4me2. Using a forced-weaning model to shut down lactation, we found that within 24 h there was a significant reduction in Abcg2 mRNA expression and a loss of signal transducer and activator of transcription-5 (STAT5) occupancy at the mouse Abcg2 gene. Luciferase reporter assays further showed that some of these STAT5-binding regions that contained interferon-γ-activated sequence (GAS) motifs function as an enhancer after prolactin treatment. We conclude that Abcg2 is already poised for expression in the virgin mammary gland and that STAT5 plays an important role in Abcg2 expression during lactation.
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