Rat mammary ducts, free of buds, can alone regenerate complete mammary trees when transplanted into the interscapular fat pads of syngeneic host rats. All the main mammary cell types are identified within such outgrowths. Epithelial cells, which show the presence of milk fat globule membrane antigens and microvilli on their luminal surfaces, line the ducts. Basal cells surrounding the ducts show characteristic features of myoepithelial cells: immunoreactive actin and keratin within the cytoplasm, myofilaments, pinocytotic vesicles and hemidesmosomal attachments to the basement membrane. Cells within the end buds and lateral buds, however, show few if any cytoplasmic myofilaments and are relatively undifferentiated in appearance. Intermediate morphologies between these cells and myoepithelial cells are seen nearer the ducts. In this respect they exactly resemble the cap cells found in terminal end buds (TEBs) of normal mammary glands. Occasional epithelial cells within alveolar buds show the presence of immunoreactive casein, which is a product of secretory alveolar cells in the normal rat mammary gland. Dissected terminal end buds can regenerate similar ductal outgrowths. Thus, ductal tissue alone can generate all the major mammary cell types seen in the normal gland, including the cap cells.

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