Estrogenic effect of soy isoflavones on mammary gland morphogenesis and gene expression profile

Anni R. Thomsen, Kristian Almstrup, John E. Nielsen, Ilona Kryspin Sørensen, Ole William Petersen, Henrik Leffers, Vibeke M. Breinholt

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


We examined the effect of 17 beta-estradiol (E2) and soy isoflavones' exposure on morphogenesis and global gene expression in the murine mammary gland. Three exposure regimens were applied: isoflavones added to the diet throughout either the lactational period (via the dams) or the postweaning period and E2 administered orally during the lactational period. Whole mounts of mammary glands were evaluated both in juvenile and adult animals with respect to branching morphogenesis and terminal end bud (TEB) formation. At postnatal day (PND) 28, we observed a significant increase in branching morphogenesis in all treated groups with the most pronounced effect after E2 exposure. For the E2-treated animals there was also a significant increase in TEB formation. At PNDs 42-43 the postweaning isoflavone and the E2 groups showed a transient reduction in the number of TEBs. A similar response after isoflavone and E2 exposure was further substantiated by changes in gene expression, since the same groups of genes were up- and downregulated, particularly in the E2 and postweaning isoflavone regimen. All changes in gene expression correlated with changes in the cellular composition of the gland, i.e., more and larger TEBs and ducts. The results suggest an estrogenic response of physiological doses of isoflavones on mammary gland development at both the morphological and molecular level, which resembled that induced by puberty.
Original languageEnglish
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)357-368
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • phytoestrogens
  • development
  • isoflavones
  • estradiol
  • mammary gland

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