Tenascin distribution in the normal human breast is altered during the menstrual cycle and in carcinoma

J E Ferguson, A M Schor, A Howell, M W Ferguson

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    52 Citations (Scopus)


    Tenascin is a novel extracellular matrix glycoprotein which appears to have a major role in tissue development [6]. Previous studies have stated that tenascin is absent from the normal human [22], rat [6] and mouse [18] breast, its distribution being restricted to embryonic and malignant mammary tissues [22]. No previous studies have investigated tenascin distribution as a function of the normal menstrual cycle. Therefore this study addresses the cyclical appearance of tenascin in the normal breast and associated changes in distribution in preinvasive cancer (carcinoma-in-situ) and invasive infiltrating ductal carcinoma. Tenascin is present in the normal human adult mammary gland, principally in the basement membrane, sub-basement-membrane zone and delimiting layer of fibroblasts around the ductules. Both the distribution and quantity of tenascin change during the menstrual cycle. In carcinoma-in-situ (preinvasive cancer) tenascin is present in the attenuated basement membrane/sub-basement-membrane zone around the expanded ductules and in small amounts in the stroma. In infiltrating ductal carcinoma, tenascin is absent from the remnants of the basement membrane and sub-basement-membrane zone but greatly increased in the adjacent intralobular and interlobular stroma. Therefore, if tenascin is used as a basement membrane/sub-basement-membrane marker for distinguishing carcinoma-in-situ from invasive ductal carcinoma, the time of the menstrual cycle is of importance in interpreting the biopsy appearance. This study suggests that the optimal time for biopsy is between weeks 3 and 4 of the cycle, to avoid confusion between the normal low levels of tenascin (due to hormonal status) and those due to microinvasive disease. That tenascin expression in the normal breast is cyclically regulated suggests that this molecule may act as a mediator in the hormonal control of mammary epithelial cell behaviour.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)199-207
    Number of pages9
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 1990


    • Adolescent
    • Adult
    • Breast/analysis
    • Breast Neoplasms/analysis
    • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating/analysis
    • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal/analysis
    • Female
    • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
    • Humans
    • Menstrual Cycle/physiology
    • Neoplasm Invasiveness/pathology
    • Tenascin


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