Cell suspension containing normal or tumor epithelium were readily obtained by enzymatically digesting rat mammary glands from perphenazine-treated (prolactin-hypersecreting) cycling, female virgin animals or hormone- responsive mammary tumors from animal treated with dimethylbenzanthracene. Cell suspensions were fractioned into predominantly epithelial and predominantly stromal cells by their differential rates of attachment to culture dishes. Both normal mammary and tumor epithelial cells were characterized by the presence of specific cell-junctional complexes, desmosome-like structures, surface microvilli, and their ability to synthesize casein. Serum-dependent protease activity was greater in cultures derived from tumors, and cells from such cultures grew in agarose whereas those from the non-neoplastic gland did not. The addition of prolactin to the culture medium stimulated DNA synthesis in primary or secondary epithelial cultures from tumors, whereas additional insulin and hydrocortisone with prolactin were required for similar levels of DNA synthesis in cultures from non-neoplastic glands. The fraction of cells synthesizing DNA was, however, smaller than that with 10 percent serum measured in the same time period. Both growth hormone and epidermal growth factor stimulated DNA synthesis but to a lesser extent than did prolactin. Prolactin with hydrocortisone and insulin were relatively inactive in promoting DNA synthesis of the nonepithelial cells whereas pituitary fibroblast growth factor was more active. These mitogenic effects were obtained when the hormones were added to the medium at near physiological concentrations, and paralleled the known activities of the hormones in control of mammary gland growth and development in the rat.

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