Regulation of pancreas plasticity and malignant transformation by Akt signaling.
ABSTRACT: Extensive evidence suggests that Akt signaling plays an important role in beta-cell mass and function, although its function in the regulation of the different pancreatic fates has not been adequately investigated. The goal of these studies was to assess the role of Akt signaling in the pancreatic differentiation programs.For these experiments, we have generated a double reporter mouse model that provides activation of Akt signaling in a cell type-specific manner. This mouse model conditionally overexpresses a constitutively active form of Akt upon Cre-mediated recombination. Activation of Akt signaling in pancreatic progenitors and acinar and beta-cells was achieved by crossing this animal model to specific Cre-lines.We showed that overexpression of a constitutively active Akt in pancreatic and duodenal homeobox 1 (Pdx1) progenitors induced expansion of ductal structures expressing progenitor markers. This expansion resulted in part from increased proliferation of the ductal epithelium. Lineage-tracing experiments in mice with activation of Akt signaling in mature acinar and beta-cells suggested that acinar-to-ductal and beta-cell-to-acinar/ductal transdifferentiation also contributed to the expansion of the ductal compartment. In addition to the changes in cell plasticity, these studies demonstrated that chronic activation of Akt signaling in Pdx1 progenitors induced the development of premalignant lesions and malignant transformation in old mice.The current work unravels some of the molecular mechanisms of cellular plasticity and reprogramming, and demonstrates for the first time that activation of Akt signaling regulates the fate of differentiated pancreatic cells in vivo.
Project description:Oncogenic mutations in KRAS contribute to the development of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, but are not sufficient to initiate carcinogenesis. Secondary events, such as inflammation-induced signaling via the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and expression of the SOX9 gene, are required for tumor formation. Herein we sought to identify the mechanisms that link EGFR signaling with activation of SOX9 during acinar-ductal metaplasia, a transdifferentiation process that precedes pancreatic carcinogenesis.We analyzed pancreatic tissues from Kras(G12D);pdx1-Cre and Kras(G12D);NFATc1(?/?);pdx1-Cre mice after intraperitoneal administration of caerulein, vs cyclosporin A or dimethyl sulfoxide (controls). Induction of EGFR signaling and its effects on the expression of Nuclear factor of activated T cells c1 (NFATc1) or SOX9 were investigated by quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, immunoblot, and immunohistochemical analyses of mouse and human tissues and acinar cell explants. Interactions between NFATc1 and partner proteins and effects on DNA binding or chromatin modifications were studied using co-immunoprecipitation and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays in acinar cell explants and mouse tissue.EGFR activation induced expression of NFATc1 in metaplastic areas from patients with chronic pancreatitis and in pancreatic tissue from Kras(G12D) mice. EGFR signaling also promoted formation of a complex between NFATc1 and C-JUN in dedifferentiating mouse acinar cells, leading to activation of Sox9 transcription and induction of acinar-ductal metaplasia. Pharmacologic inhibition of NFATc1 or disruption of the Nfatc1 gene inhibited EGFR-mediated induction of Sox9 transcription and blocked acinar-ductal transdifferentiation and pancreatic cancer initiation in mice.EGFR signaling induces expression of NFATc1 and Sox9, leading to acinar cell transdifferentiation and initiation of pancreatic cancer. Strategies designed to disrupt this pathway might be developed to prevent pancreatic cancer initiation in high-risk patients with chronic pancreatitis.
Project description:Aberrant activation of embryonic signaling pathways is frequent in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), making developmental regulators therapeutically attractive. Here we demonstrate diverse functions for pancreatic and duodenal homeobox 1 (PDX1), a transcription factor indispensable for pancreas development, in the progression from normal exocrine cells to metastatic PDA. We identify a critical role for PDX1 in maintaining acinar cell identity, thus resisting the formation of pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN)-derived PDA. Upon neoplastic transformation, the role of PDX1 changes from tumor-suppressive to oncogenic. Interestingly, subsets of malignant cells lose PDX1 expression while undergoing epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), and PDX1 loss is associated with poor outcome. This stage-specific functionality arises from profound shifts in PDX1 chromatin occupancy from acinar cells to PDA. In summary, we report distinct roles of PDX1 at different stages of PDA, suggesting that therapeutic approaches against this potential target need to account for its changing functions at different stages of carcinogenesis. These findings provide insight into the complexity of PDA pathogenesis and advocate a rigorous investigation of therapeutically tractable targets at distinct phases of PDA development and progression.
Project description:The transcription factor MafA regulates glucose-responsive expression of insulin. MafA-deficient mice have a normal proportion of insulin+ cells at birth but develop diabetes gradually with age, suggesting that MafA is required for maturation and not specification of pancreatic beta-cells. However, several studies show that ectopic expression of MafA may have a role in specification as it induces insulin+ cells in chicken gut epithelium, reprograms adult murine acinar cells into insulin+ cells in combination with Ngn3 and Pdx1, and triggers the lens differentiation. Hence, we examined whether MafA can induce specification of beta-cells during pancreatic development. When the MafA transgene is expressed in Pdx1+ pancreatic progenitors, both pancreatic mass and proliferation of progenitors are reduced, at least partially due to induction of cyclin kinase inhibitors p27 and p57. Expression of MafA in Pdx1+ cells until E12.5 was sufficient to cause these effects and to disproportionately inhibit the formation of endocrine cells in the remnant pancreas. Thus, in mice, MafA expression in Pdx1+ pancreatic progenitors is not sufficient to specify insulin+ cells but in fact deters pancreatic development and the differentiation of endocrine cells. These findings imply that MafA should be used to enhance maturation, rather than specification, of beta-cells from stem/progenitor cells.
Project description:Cellular plasticity in adult organs is involved in both regeneration and carcinogenesis. WT mouse acinar cells rapidly regenerate following injury that mimics acute pancreatitis, a process characterized by transient reactivation of pathways involved in embryonic pancreatic development. In contrast, such injury promotes the development of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) precursor lesions in mice expressing a constitutively active form of the GTPase, Kras, in the exocrine pancreas. The molecular environment that mediates acinar regeneration versus the development of PDA precursor lesions is poorly understood. Here, we used genetically engineered mice to demonstrate that mutant Kras promotes acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM) and pancreatic cancer precursor lesion formation by blocking acinar regeneration following acute pancreatitis. Our results indicate that beta-catenin is required for efficient acinar regeneration. In addition, canonical beta-catenin signaling, a pathway known to regulate embryonic acinar development, is activated following acute pancreatitis. This regeneration-associated activation of beta-catenin signaling was not observed during the initiation of Kras-induced acinar-to-ductal reprogramming. Furthermore, stabilized beta-catenin signaling antagonized the ability of Kras to reprogram acini into PDA preneoplastic precursors. Therefore, these results suggest that beta-catenin signaling is a critical determinant of acinar plasticity and that it is inhibited during Kras-induced fate decisions that specify PDA precursors, highlighting the importance of temporal regulation of embryonic signaling pathways in the development of neoplastic cell fates.
Project description:Activin, a member of the transforming growth factor-? (TGFB) family, might be involved in pancreatic tumorigenesis, similar to other members of the TGFB family. Human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas contain somatic mutations in the activin A receptor type IB (ACVR1B) gene, indicating that ACVR1B could be a suppressor of pancreatic tumorigenesis.We disrupted Acvr1b specifically in pancreata of mice (Acvr1b(flox/flox);Pdx1-Cre mice) and crossed them with LSL-KRAS(G12D) mice, which express an activated form of KRAS and develop spontaneous pancreatic tumors. The resulting Acvr1b(flox/flox);LSL-KRAS(G12D);Pdx1-Cre mice were monitored; pancreatic tissues were collected and analyzed by histology and immunohistochemical analyses. We also analyzed p16(flox/flox);LSL-Kras(G12D);Pdx1-Cre mice and Cre-negative littermates (controls). Genomic DNA, total RNA, and protein were isolated from mouse tissues and primary pancreatic tumor cell lines and analyzed by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, sequencing, and immunoblot analyses. Human intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN) specimens were analyzed by immunohistochemistry.Loss of ACVR1B from pancreata of mice increased the proliferation of pancreatic epithelial cells, led to formation of acinar to ductal metaplasia, and induced focal inflammatory changes compared with control mice. Disruption of Acvr1b in LSL-KRAS(G12D);Pdx1-Cre mice accelerated the growth of pancreatic IPMNs compared with LSL-KRAS(G12D);Pdx1-Cre mice, but did not alter growth of pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasias. We associated perinuclear localization of the activated NOTCH4 intracellular domain to the apical cytoplasm of neoplastic cells with the expansion of IPMN lesions in Acvr1b(flox/flox);LSL-KRAS(G12D);Pdx1-Cre mice. Loss of the gene that encodes p16 (Cdkn2a) was required for progression of IPMNs to pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas in Acvr1b(flox/flox);LSL-Kras(G12D);Pdx1-Cre mice. We also observed progressive loss of p16 in human IPMNs of increasing grades.Loss of ACVR1B accelerates growth of mutant KRAS-induced pancreatic IPMNs in mice; this process appears to involve NOTCH4 and loss of p16. ACVR1B suppresses early stages of pancreatic tumorigenesis; the activin signaling pathway therefore might be a therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer.
Project description:PanINs and IPMNs are the two most common precursor lesions that can progress to invasive pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA). DCLK1 has been identified as a biomarker of progenitor cells in PDA progressed from PanINs. To explore the potential role of DCLK1-expressing cells in the genesis of IPMNs, we compared the incidence of DCLK1-positive cells in pancreatic tissue samples from genetically-engineered mouse models (GEMMs) for IPMNs, PanINs, and acinar to ductal metaplasia by immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence. Mouse lineage tracing experiments in the IPMN GEMM showed that DCLK1+ cells originated from a cell lineage distinct from PDX1+ progenitors. The DCLK1+ cells shared the features of tuft cells but were devoid of IPMN tumor biomarkers. The DCLK1+ cells were detected in the earliest proliferative acinar clusters prior to the formation of metaplastic ductal cells, and were enriched in the "IPMN niches". In summary, DCLK1 labels a unique pancreatic cellular lineage in the IPMN GEMM. The clustering of DCLK1+ cells is an early event in Kras-induced pancreatic tumorigenesis and may contribute to IPMN initiation.
Project description:Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is believed to arise through a multistep model comprised of putative precursor lesions known as pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN). Recent genetically engineered mouse models of PDAC demonstrate a comparable morphologic spectrum of murine PanIN (mPanIN) lesions. The histogenesis of PanIN and PDAC in both mice and men remains controversial. The most faithful genetic models activate an oncogenic Kras(G12D) knockin allele within the pdx1- or ptf1a/p48-expression domain of the entire pancreatic anlage during development, thus obscuring the putative cell(s)-of-origin from which subsequent mPanIN lesions arise. In our study, activation of this knockin Kras(G12D) allele in the Elastase- and Mist1-expressing mature acinar compartment of adult mice resulted in the spontaneous induction of mPanIN lesions of all histological grades, although invasive carcinomas per se were not seen. We observed no requirement for concomitant chronic exocrine injury in the induction of mPanIN lesions from the mature acinar cell compartment. The acinar cell derivation of the mPanINs was established through lineage tracing in reporter mice, and by microdissection of lesional tissue demonstrating Cre-mediated recombination events. In contrast to the uniformly penetrant mPanIN phenotype observed following developmental activation of Kras(G12D) in the Pdx1-expressing progenitor cells, the Pdx1-expressing population in the mature pancreas (predominantly islet beta cells) appears to be relatively resistant to the effects of oncogenic Kras. We conclude that in the appropriate genetic context, the differentiated acinar cell compartment in adult mice retains its susceptibility for spontaneous transformation into mPanIN lesions, a finding with potential relevance vis-à-vis the origins of PDAC.
Project description:In contrast to mammals, the zebrafish has the remarkable capacity to regenerate its pancreatic beta cells very efficiently. Understanding the mechanisms of regeneration in the zebrafish and the differences with mammals will be fundamental to discovering molecules able to stimulate the regeneration process in mammals. To identify the pancreatic cells able to give rise to new beta cells in the zebrafish, we generated new transgenic lines allowing the tracing of multipotent pancreatic progenitors and endocrine precursors.Using novel bacterial artificial chromosome transgenic nkx6.1 and ascl1b reporter lines, we established that nkx6.1-positive cells give rise to all the pancreatic cell types and ascl1b-positive cells give rise to all the endocrine cell types in the zebrafish embryo. These two genes are initially co-expressed in the pancreatic primordium and their domains segregate, not as a result of mutual repression, but through the opposite effects of Notch signaling, maintaining nkx6.1 expression while repressing ascl1b in progenitors. In the adult zebrafish, nkx6.1 expression persists exclusively in the ductal tree at the tip of which its expression coincides with Notch active signaling in centroacinar/terminal end duct cells. Tracing these cells reveals that they are able to differentiate into other ductal cells and into insulin-expressing cells in normal (non-diabetic) animals. This capacity of ductal cells to generate endocrine cells is supported by the detection of ascl1b in the nkx6.1:GFP ductal cell transcriptome. This transcriptome also reveals, besides actors of the Notch and Wnt pathways, several novel markers such as id2a. Finally, we show that beta cell ablation in the adult zebrafish triggers proliferation of ductal cells and their differentiation into insulin-expressing cells.We have shown that, in the zebrafish embryo, nkx6.1+ cells are bona fide multipotent pancreatic progenitors, while ascl1b+ cells represent committed endocrine precursors. In contrast to the mouse, pancreatic progenitor markers nkx6.1 and pdx1 continue to be expressed in adult ductal cells, a subset of which we show are still able to proliferate and undergo ductal and endocrine differentiation, providing robust evidence of the existence of pancreatic progenitor/stem cells in the adult zebrafish. Our findings support the hypothesis that nkx6.1+ pancreatic progenitors contribute to beta cell regeneration. Further characterization of these cells will open up new perspectives for anti-diabetic therapies.
Project description:OBJECTIVES:Pancreatic regenerating gene I (reg I) has been implicated in cellular differentiation. Acinar cells can transdifferentiate into other pancreatic-derived cells, and we postulated that changes in intracellular levels of reg I would affect the state of differentiation. METHODS:We transfected AR42J cells with a plasmid containing the entire coding sequence of reg I and isolated clones with complementary DNA in sense (SS) or antisense (AS) orientation. Levels of messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein expression were examined by Western blotting and real-time polymerase chain reaction. RESULTS:Expression of reg I was confirmed in SS or AS clones. AR42J transfected with SS demonstrated more acinarlike phenotype, whereas those transfected with AS showed a less differentiated state. Specifically, amylase mRNA and protein levels increased in SS cells, whereas AS cells showed increased pancreatic and duodenal homeobox 1 (Pdx1) and insulin mRNAs and cytokeratin protein. Conversely, cytokeratin and Pdx1 were depressed in SS cells. CONCLUSIONS:These data demonstrate that in acinar cells, reg I overexpression is linked to acinar cell differentiation, whereas inhibition of reg I leads to beta cell and possibly ductal phenotype. Reg I expression in acinar cells is important in maintaining pancreatic cell lineage, and when decreased, cells can dedifferentiate and move toward becoming other pancreatic cells.
Project description:Poor fetal nutrition increases the risk of type 2 diabetes in the offspring at least in part by reduced embryonic ?-cell growth and impaired function. However, it is not entirely clear how fetal nutrients and growth factors impact ?-cells during development to alter glucose homeostasis and metabolism later in life. The current experiments aimed to test the impact of fetal nutrients and growth factors on endocrine development and how these signals acting on mTOR signaling regulate ?-cell mass and glucose homeostasis.Pancreatic rudiments in culture were used to study the role of glucose, growth factors, and amino acids on ?-cell development. The number and proliferation of pancreatic and endocrine progenitor were assessed in the presence or absence of rapamycin. The impact of mTOR signaling in vivo on pancreas development and glucose homeostasis was assessed in models deficient for mTOR or Raptor in Pdx1 expressing pancreatic progenitors.We found that amino acid concentrations, and leucine in particular, enhance the number of pancreatic and endocrine progenitors and are essential for growth factor induced proliferation. Rapamycin, an mTORC1 complex inhibitor, reduced the number and proliferation of pancreatic and endocrine progenitors. Mice lacking mTOR in pancreatic progenitors exhibited hyperglycemia in neonates, hypoinsulinemia and pancreatic agenesis/hypoplasia with pancreas rudiments containing ductal structures lacking differentiated acinar and endocrine cells. In addition, loss of mTORC1 by deletion of raptor in pancreatic progenitors reduced pancreas size with reduced number of ?-cells.Together, these results suggest that amino acids concentrations and in particular leucine modulates growth responses of pancreatic and endocrine progenitors and that mTOR signaling is critical for these responses. Inactivation of mTOR and raptor in pancreatic progenitors suggested that alterations in some of the components of this pathway during development could be a cause of pancreatic agenesis/hypoplasia and hyperglycemia.