Autophagy regulates functional differentiation of mammary epithelial cells. Academic Article uri icon


  • Mitochondria operate as a central hub for many metabolic processes by sensing and responding to the cellular environment. Developmental cues from the environment have been implicated in selective autophagy, or mitophagy, of mitochondria during cell differentiation and tissue development. Mitophagy occurring in this context, termed programmed mitophagy, responds to cell state rather than mitochondrial damage and is often accompanied by a metabolic transition. However, little is known about the mechanisms that engage and execute mitophagy under physiological or developmental conditions. As the mammary gland undergoes post-natal development and lactation challenges mitochondrial homeostasis, we investigated the contribution of mitochondria to differentiation of mammary epithelial cells (MECs). Using lactogenic differentiation of the HC11 mouse MEC line, we demonstrated that HC11 cells transition to a highly energetic state during differentiation by engaging both oxidative phosphorylation and glycolysis. Interestingly, this transition was lost when autophagy was inhibited with bafilomycin A1 or knockdown of Atg7 (autophagy related 7). To evaluate the specific targeting of mitochondria, we traced mitochondrial oxidation and turnover in vitro with the fluorescent probe, pMitoTimer. Indeed, we found that differentiation engaged mitophagy. To further evaluate the requirement of mitophagy during differentiation, we knocked down the expression of Prkn/parkin in HC11 cells. We found that MEC differentiation was impaired in shPrkn cells, implying that PRKN is required for MEC differentiation. These studies suggest a novel regulation of MEC differentiation through programmed mitophagy and provide a foundation for future studies of development and disease associated with mitochondrial function in the mammary gland.Abbreviations: AA: antimycin A; ATG5: autophagy related 5; BAF: bafilomycin A1; BNIP3: BCL2 interacting protein 3; BNIP3L/NIX: BCL2 interacting protein 3 like; COX8A: cytochrome c oxidase subunit 8A; CQ: chloroquine; CSN2: casein beta; ECAR: extracellular acidification rate; FCCP: trifluoromethoxy carbonylcyanide phenylhydrazone; FUNDC1: FUN14 domain containing 1; HIF1A: hypoxia inducible factor 1 subunit alpha; L1: lactation day 1; MAP1LC3B: microtubule associated protein 1 light chain 3 beta; MEC: mammary epithelial cell; mitoQ: mitoquinol; mROS: mitochondrial reactive oxygen species; OCR: oxygen consumption rate; P: priming; P16: pregnancy day 16; PARP1: poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1; PINK1: PTEN induced kinase 1; PPARGC1A: PPARG coactivator 1 alpha; PRKN: parkin RBR E3 ubiquitin protein ligase; shNT: short hairpin non-targeting control; SQSTM1: sequestosome 1; STAT3: signal transducer and activator of transcription 3; TEM: transmission electron microscopy; TFAM: transcription factor A, mitochondrial; U: undifferentiated.

published proceedings

  • Autophagy

author list (cited authors)

  • Elswood, J., Pearson, S. J., Payne, H. R., Barhoumi, R., Rijnkels, M., & W Porter, W.

citation count

  • 14

complete list of authors

  • Elswood, Jessica||Pearson, Scott J||Payne, H Ross||Barhoumi, Rola||Rijnkels, Monique||W Porter, Weston

publication date

  • February 2021