Open Access Research article

Characterization of ductal and lobular breast carcinomas using novel prolactin receptor isoform specific antibodies

Erika Ginsburg1*, Stefanie Alexander1, Sarah Lieber1, Sarah Tarplin1, Luwanda Jenkins1, Linda Pang1, Christopher D Heger2, Paul Goldsmith2 and Barbara K Vonderhaar1

Author Affiliations

1 Mammary Biology and Tumorigenesis Laboratory, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892 USA

2 Antibody and Protein Purification Unit, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892 USA

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:678  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-678

Published: 13 December 2010



Prolactin is a polypeptide hormone responsible for proliferation and differentiation of the mammary gland. More recently, prolactin's role in mammary carcinogenesis has been studied with greater interest. Studies from our laboratory and from others have demonstrated that three specific isoforms of the prolactin receptor (PRLR) are expressed in both normal and cancerous breast cells and tissues. Until now, reliable isoform specific antibodies have been lacking. We have prepared and characterized polyclonal antibodies against each of the human PRLR isoforms that can effectively be used to characterize human breast cancers.


Rabbits were immunized with synthetic peptides of isoform unique regions and immune sera affinity purified prior to validation by Western blot and immunohistochemical analyses. Sections of ductal and lobular carcinomas were stained with each affinity purified isoform specific antibody to determine expression patterns in breast cancer subclasses.


We show that the rabbit antibodies have high titer and could specifically recognize each isoform of PRLR. Differences in PRLR isoform expression levels were observed and quantified using histosections from xenografts of established human breast cancer cells lines, and ductal and lobular carcinoma human biopsy specimens. In addition, these results were verified by real-time PCR with isoform specific primers. While nearly all tumors contained LF and SF1b, the majority (76%) of ductal carcinoma biopsies expressed SF1a while the majority of lobular carcinomas lacked SF1a staining (72%) and 27% had only low levels of expression.


Differences in the receptor isoform expression profiles may be critical to understanding the role of PRL in mammary tumorigenesis. Since these antibodies are specifically directed against each PRLR isoform, they are valuable tools for the evaluation of breast cancer PRLR content and have potential clinical importance in treatment of this disease by providing new reagents to study the protein expression of the human PRLR.