BACKGROUNDNotch4 is a member of the Notch family of receptors that is primarily expressed in the vascular endothelial cells. Genetic deletion of Notch4 does not result in an overt phenotype in mice, thus the function of Notch4 remains poorly understood.METHODSWe examined the requirement for Notch4 in the development of breast cancer vasculature. Orthotopic transplantation of mouse mammary tumor cells wild type for Notch4 into Notch4 deficient hosts enabled us to delineate the contribution of host Notch4 independent of its function in the tumor cell compartment.RESULTSHere, we show that Notch4 expression is required for tumor onset and early tumor perfusion in a mouse model of breast cancer. We found that Notch4 expression is upregulated in mouse and human mammary tumor vasculature. Moreover, host Notch4 deficiency delayed the onset of MMTV-PyMT tumors, wild type for Notch4, after transplantation. Vessel perfusion was decreased in tumors established in Notch4-deficient hosts. Unlike in inhibition of Notch1 or Dll4, vessel density and branching in tumors developed in Notch4-deficient mice were unchanged. However, final tumor size was similar between tumors grown in wild type and Notch4 null hosts.CONCLUSIONOur results suggest a novel role for Notch4 in the establishment of tumor colonies and vessel perfusion of transplanted mammary tumors.