Nature communications

Propagation of oestrogen receptor-positive and oestrogen-responsive normal human breast cells in culture.

PMID 26564780


Investigating the susceptibility of oestrogen receptor-positive (ER(pos)) normal human breast epithelial cells (HBECs) for clinical purposes or basic research awaits a proficient cell-based assay. Here we set out to identify markers for isolating ER(pos) cells and to expand what appear to be post-mitotic primary cells into exponentially growing cultures. We report a robust technique for isolating ER(pos) HBECs from reduction mammoplasties by FACS using two cell surface markers, CD166 and CD117, and an intracellular cytokeratin marker, Ks20.8, for further tracking single cells in culture. We show that ER(pos) HBECs are released from growth restraint by small molecule inhibitors of TGFβ signalling, and that growth is augmented further in response to oestrogen. Importantly, ER signalling is functionally active in ER(pos) cells in extended culture. These findings open a new avenue of experimentation with normal ER(pos) HBECs and provide a basis for understanding the evolution of human breast cancer.