Normal mammary gland development requires interactions between the cells forming the gland. It is well known that different types of junctions are involved in these interactions, including gap, adherens and tight junctions. Most of the junctions' components, named junctional proteins, have been identified. However, the mechanisms controlling junctional proteins setup and function are poorly understood.
The main objective of this research program is to identify those mechanisms. To do so, we use different models mimicking mammary gland structure in laboratory. We can modify the interactions between the cells in these models using various compounds, and determine the effects on mammary gland development. Understanding the mechanisms involved in cell interactions is crucial since their deregulation could lead to abnormal mammary gland development and increased susceptibility to breast cancer. Since most of mammary gland development occurs at puberty, it is quite possible that cell interactions are controlled, at least in part, by hormones. Some environmental pollutants look like hormone and can mimic their actions. These pollutants are named endocrine disruptors.
Our second objective is to determine if an exposure to endocrine disruptors can modulate cell interactions setup and function, thereby promoting breast tumor development. There are growing interests and concerns within the population regarding the effects of the environment on human health. It is primordial to provide documented answers on the risks associated with exposure to chemicals for mammary gland development and breast cancer.