Lactoferrin interaction with retinoid signaling: Cell growth and apoptosis in mammary cells

Craig R. Baumrucker, Floyd Schanbacher, Youngfeng Shang, M. H. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Lactoferrin (Lf) is a multifunctional iron-binding protein that was first identified in mammary secretions, but is synthesized by most mammalian tissues. The protein has a signal sequence that dictates secretion; it also has a nuclear localization sequence that facilitates entry into the cell nucleus. The mechanism of the latter action is currently unknown, but is thought to occur via a Lf receptor. Lactoferrin content of mammary tissue and secretions varies with developmental state; it is synthesized in mammary tissue at high levels during both pregnancy and involution, and during mammary infections. Using fluorescent (FITC)-labeled holo-bLf, we show that bovine primary epithelial cells and MCF-7 breast cancer cells do not translocate the exogenously added Lf to the nucleus after culture in serum free media (SFM). However, the supplementation of SFM with 1 μM all-trans retinoic acid (atRA) caused breast cancer cells to gain the capacity to take up labeled bLf into the cell nucleus. Primary bovine mammary cells (MeBo) exhibited similar capacity in culture. This suggests that in addition to Lf, one or more components modulated by atRA, are necessary for nuclear translocation to occur. Transfection experiments with atRA treated MCF-7 cells containing retinoic acid response element reporter constructs showed that the extracellular application of lactoferrin alters reporter gene expression. Lactoferrin increased a DR5 luciferase response element in a dose-dependent manner only when atRA was applied. Immunocytochemical markers for the cell cycle (Ki67) and apoptotic events (Caspase-3 and PARP-85) showed that lactoferrin alters the atRA-induced phenotype, blocking apoptosis and maintaining cell cycle activity in both MCF-7 and MeBo cells in the presence of 1 μM atRA. We propose that nuclear lactoferrin interacts with retinoic acid signaling pathways in cells and alters/blocks the signals so that cells remain in the cell cycle and/or do not enter the apoptotic pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-303
Number of pages15
JournalDomestic Animal Endocrinology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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