Introduction Treatment with estrogen and progesterone (E+P) mimics the protective effect of parity on mammary tumors in rodents and depends upon the activity of p53. The following experiments tested whether exogenous E+P primes p53 to be more responsive to DNA damage and whether these pathways confer resistance to mammary tumors in a mouse model of Li-Fraumeni syndrome. Methods Mice that differ in p53 status (Trp53+/+, Trp53+/-, Trp53-/-) were treated with E+P for 14 days and then were tested for p53-dependent responses to ionizing radiation. Responses were also examined in parous and age-matched virgins. The effects of hormonal exposures on tumor incidence were examined in BALB/c-Trp53+/- mammary tissues. Results Nuclear accumulation of p53 and apoptotic responses were increased similarly in the mammary epithelium from E+P-treated and parous mice compared with placebo and age-matched virgins. This effect was sustained for at least 7 weeks after E+P treatment and did not depend on the continued presence of ovarian hormones. Hormone stimulation also enhanced apoptotic responses to ionizing radiation in BALB/c-Trp53+/- mice but these responses were intermediate compared with Trp53+/+ and Trp-/- tissues, indicating haploinsufficiency. The appearance of spontaneous mammary tumors was delayed by parity in BALB/c-Trp53+/- mice. The majority of tumors lacked estrogen receptor (ER), but ER+ tumors were observed in both nulliparous and parous mice. However, apoptotic responses to ionizing radiation and tumor incidence did not differ among outgrowths of epithelial transplants from E+P-treated donors and nulliparous donors.
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