Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

microRNA alterations in ALDH positive mammary epithelial cells: a crucial contributing factor towards breast cancer risk reduction in case of early pregnancy

Sushmita Bose Nandy, Ramadevi Subramani, Venkatesh Rajamanickam, Rebecca Lopez-Valdez, Arunkumar Arumugam, Thiyagarajan Boopalan and Rajkumar Lakshmanaswamy*

Author Affiliations

Department of Biomedical Sciences MSB1, Center of Excellence in Cancer Research, Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, 5001 El Paso Drive, El Paso, TX 79905, USA

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:644  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-644

Published: 31 August 2014



microRNAs have recently succeeded in grabbing the center stage in cancer research for their potential to regulate vital cellular process like cell cycle, stem cell renewal and epithelial mesenchymal transition. Breast cancer is the second most leading cause of cancer related mortality in women. The main reason for mortality is chemoresistance and metastasis for which remnant stem cells are believed to be the cause. One of the natural ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer in women is early pregnancy. Unraveling the mechanism behind it would add to our knowledge and help in evolving newer paradigms for breast cancer prevention.

The current study deals with investigating transcriptomic differences in putative stem cells in mammary epithelial cell population (MECs) in terms of genes and microRNAs. In silico tools were used to identify potential mechanisms. ALDH positive MECs represent a putative stem cell population in the mammary gland.


MECs were extracted from the mammary gland of virgin and parous (one time pregnant) rats. ALDH positive MECs were sorted and used for transcriptional and translational analysis for genes and microRNAs. In silico analysis for target prediction and networking was performed through online portals of Target Scan and Metacore.


A total of 35 and 49 genes and microRNAs respectively were found to be differentially expressed within the two groups. Among the important genes were Lifr, Acvr1c, and PparĪ³ which were found to be targeted by microRNAs in our dataset like miR-143, miR-30, miR-140, miR-27b, miR-125a, miR-128ab, miR-342, miR-26ab, miR-181, miR-150, miR-23ab and miR-425. In silico data mining and networking also demonstrates that genes and microRNA interaction can have profound effects on stem cell renewal, cell cycle dynamics and EMT processes of the MEC population.


Our data clearly shows that certain microRNAs play crucial role in the regulation of ALDH positive MECs and favor an anti-carcinogenic environment in the post-partum gland. Some of the potential interplaying mechanisms in the ALDH positive MEC population identified through this study are p21, Lifr and PparĪ³ mediated cell cycle regulation, regulation of metastasis and expansion of stem cell pool respectively.

Pregnancy; ALDH positive MECs; Breast cancer; microRNAs