The proliferative response of mammary gland epithelium from nonpregnant, pregnant, and lactating mice to mammary serum factor and insulin was studied in vitro. Mammary gland epiithelium from nonpregnant and lactating animals has a delayed proliferative response to mammary serum factor and insulin when compared to the response of epithelium from pregnant animals. The results show that as the animals go through pregnancy into lactation the mammary gland epithelium becomes less responsive to mammary serum factor while it retains its responsiveness to insulin. The concentration of mammary serum factor in sera from animals at various physiological stages is constant. Sera from hypophysectomized rats, on the other hand, show a 50% drop in mammary serum factor activity. This loss of activity cannot be reversed by injecting prolactin, 17-beta-estradiol, or growth hormone into the hypophysectomized animals. A hypothesis that the mammary gland is composed of two proliferative epithelial populations is developed, and the possible role of prolactin in stimulating DNA synthesis is discussed.

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