Parity predisposes breasts to the oncogenic action of PAPP-A and activation of the collagen receptor DDR2

Elizabeth Slocum, Amanda Craig, Augusto Villanueva, Doris Germain

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13 Scopus citations


Background: Women who had children at a young age (less than 25) show a reduced overall risk of breast cancer. However, epidemiological studies showed that for all other women, pregnancy increases the risk of breast cancer and the risk remains higher for decades. Further, even in women who had children at a young age, there is a transient increase risk that peaks 6 years after pregnancy. Women diagnosed with breast cancer following pregnancy show a higher rate of metastasis. Yet, the factors that increase the predisposition of post-partum breasts to more aggressive cancers remain unknown. Pregnancy-associated plasma protein A (PAPP-A) is a secreted protease that is overexpressed in more than 70% of breast cancers. However, PAPP-A is a collagen-dependent oncogene. We initiated this study to test the effect of PAPP-A on the predisposition of post-partum breasts. Methods: We used PAPP-A mouse models for the analysis of its effect on virgin, involuting, or post-partum mammary glands. We performed second-harmonic generation microscopy for the analysis of collagen, defined tumor-associated collagen signature (TACS), the rate of mammary tumors, and the status of the collagen-DDR2-Snail axis of metastasis. We knockdown DDR2 by CRISPR and performed invasion assays. A transcriptomic approach was used to define a PAPP-A and parity-dependent genetic signature and assess its correlation with breast cancer recurrence in humans. Results: We confirmed that post-partum mammary glands have a higher level of collagen than virgin glands and that this collagen is characterized by an anti-proliferative architecture. However, PAPP-A converts the anti-proliferative post-partum collagen into pro-tumorigenic collagen. We show that PAPP-A activates the collagen receptor DDR2 and metastasis. Further, deletion of DDR2 by CRISPR abolished the effect of PAPP-A on invasion. We defined a PAPP-A-driven genetic signature that identifies patients at higher risk of metastasis. Conclusions: These results support the notion that information about pregnancy may be critical in the prognosis of breast cancer as passage through a single pregnancy predisposes to the oncogenic action of PAPP-A. Our data indicate that history of pregnancy combined with the expression of PAPP-A-driven genetic signature may be useful to identify patients at higher risk of metastatic disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number56
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 May 2019


  • Collagen
  • DDR2
  • Insulin-like growth factor (IGF) signaling
  • Involution
  • LARP6
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy-associated breast cancer
  • Pregnancy-associated plasma protein A
  • TACS


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