The effect of mammary gland-specific expression of the polyomavirus middle T antigen was examined by establishing lines of transgenic mice that carry the middle T oncogene under the transcriptional control of the mouse mammary tumor virus promoter/enhancer. By contrast to most transgenic strains carrying activated oncogenes, expression of polyomavirus middle T antigen resulted in the widespread transformation of the mammary epithelium and the rapid production of multifocal mammary adenocarcinomas. Interestingly, the majority of the tumor-bearing transgenic mice developed secondary metastatic tumors in the lung. Taken together, these results suggest that middle T antigen acts as a potent oncogene in the mammary epithelium and that cells that express it possess an enhanced metastatic potential.
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