Age is the number one risk factor for breast cancer, yet the underlying mechanisms are unexplored. Age-associated mammary stem cell (MaSC) dysfunction is thought to play an important role in breast cancer carcinogenesis. Non-human primates with their close phylogenetic relationship to humans provide a powerful model system to study the effects of aging on human MaSC. In particular, the common marmoset monkey (Callithrix jacchus) with a relatively short life span is an ideal model for aging research. In the present study, we characterized for the first time the mammary epithelial stem/progenitor cells in the common marmoset. The MaSC-enriched cells formed four major types of morphologically distinct colonies when cultured on plates pre-seeded with irradiated NIH3T3 fibroblasts, and were also capable of forming mammospheres in suspension culture and subsequent formation of 3D organoids in Matrigel culture. Most importantly, these 3D organoids were found to contain stem/progenitor cells that can undergo self-renewal and multi-lineage differentiation both in vitro and in vivo. We also observed a significant decrease of luminal-restricted progenitors with age. Our findings demonstrate that common marmoset mammary stem/progenitor cells can be isolated and quantified with established in vitro and in vivo assays used for mouse and human studies.
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