Key signalling nodes in mammary gland development and cancer. Mitogen-activated protein kinase signalling in experimental models of breast cancer progression and in mammary gland development.

Seven classes of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) intracellular signalling cascades exist, four of which are implicated in breast disease and function in mammary epithelial cells. These are the extracellular regulated kinase (ERK)1/2 pathway, the ERK5 pathway, the p38 pathway and the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway. In some forms of human breast cancer and in many experimental models of breast cancer progression, signalling through the ERK1/2 pathway, in particular, has been implicated as being important. We review the influence of ERK1/2 activity on the organised three-dimensional association of mammary epithelial cells, and in models of breast cancer cell invasion. We assess the importance of epidermal growth factor receptor family signalling through ERK1/2 in models of breast cancer progression and the influence of ERK1/2 on its substrate, the oestrogen receptor, in this context. In parallel, we consider the importance of these MAPK-centred signalling cascades during the cycle of mammary gland development. Although less extensively studied, we highlight the instances of signalling through the p38, JNK and ERK5 pathways involved in breast cancer progression and mammary gland development.