The mammary gland epithelial tree contains two distinct cell populations, luminal and basal. The investigation of how this heterogeneity is developed and how it influences tumorigenesis has been hampered by the need to perform studies on these populations using animal models. Comma-1D is an immortalized mouse mammary epithelial cell line that has unique morphogenetic properties. By performing single-cell RNA-seq studies, we found that Comma-1D cultures consist of two main populations with luminal and basal features, and a smaller population with mixed lineage and bipotent characteristics. We demonstrated that multiple transcription factors associated with the differentiation of the mammary epithelium in vivo also modulate this process in Comma-1D cultures. Additionally, we found that only cells with luminal features were able to acquire transformed characteristics after an oncogenic HER2 (also known as ERBB2) mutant was introduced in their genomes. Overall, our studies characterize, at a single-cell level, the heterogeneity of the Comma-1D cell line and illustrate how Comma-1D cells can be used as an experimental model to study both the differentiation and the transformation processes in vitro.

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