Smad4 loss synergizes with TGF? overexpression in promoting pancreatic metaplasia, PanIN development, and fibrosis.
ABSTRACT: While overexpression of TGF? has been reported in human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), mice with overexpressed TGF? develop premalignant pancreatic acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM) but not PDAC. TGF-? signaling pathway is pivotal to the development of PDAC and tissue fibrosis. Here we sought to investigate the interplay between TGF? and TGF-? signaling in pancreatic tumorigenesis and fibrosis, namely via Smad4 inactivation.The MT-TGF? mouse was crossed with a new Smad4 conditional knock-out mouse (Smad4flox/flox;p48-Cre or S4) to generate Smad4flox/flox;MT-TGF?;p48-Cre (STP). After TGF? overexpression was induced with zinc sulfate water for eight months, the pancreata of the STP, MT-TGF?, and S4 mice were examined for tumor development and fibrotic responses. PanIN lesions and number of ducts were counted, and proliferation was measured by Ki67 immunohistochemistry (IHC). Qualitative analysis of fibrosis was analyzed by Trichrome Masson and Sirius Red staining, while vimentin was used for quantification. Expression analyses of fibrosis, pancreatitis, or desmoplasia associated markers (?-SMA, Shh, COX-2, Muc6, Col1a1, and Ctgf) were performed by IHC and/or qRT-PCR.Our STP mice exhibited advanced ADM, increased fibrosis, increased numbers of PanIN lesions, overexpression of chronic pancreatitis-related marker Muc6, and elevated expression of desmoplasia-associated marker Col1A1, compared to the MT-TGF? mice. The inactivation of Smad4 in the exocrine compartment was responsible for both the enhanced PanIN formation and fibrosis in the pancreas. The phenotype of the STP mice represents a transient state from ADMs to PanINs, closely mimicking the interface area seen in human chronic pancreatitis associated with PDAC.We have documented a novel mouse model, the STP mice, which displayed histologic presentations reminiscent to those of human chronic pancreatitis with signs of early tumorigenesis. The STP mice could be a suitable animal model for interrogating the transition of chronic pancreatitis to pancreatic cancer.
Project description:Activating mutations in the KRAS oncogene are prevalent in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). We previously demonstrated that pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) formation, which precedes malignant transformation, associates with the expression of immediate early response 3 (Ier3) as part of a prooncogenic transcriptional pathway. Here, we evaluated the role of IER3 in PanIN formation and PDAC development. In human pancreatic cancer cells, IER3 expression efficiently sustained ERK1/2 phosphorylation by inhibiting phosphatase PP2A activity. Moreover, IER3 enhanced KrasG12D-dependent oncogenesis in the pancreas, as both PanIN and PDAC development were delayed in IER3-deficient KrasG12D mice. IER3 expression was discrete in healthy acinar cells, becoming highly prominent in peritumoral acini, and particularly high in acinar ductal metaplasia (ADM) and PanIN lesions, where IER3 colocalized with phosphorylated ERK1/2. However, IER3 was absent in undifferentiated PDAC, which suggests that the IER3-dependent pathway is an early event in pancreatic tumorigenesis. IER3 expression was induced by both mild and severe pancreatitis, which promoted PanIN formation and progression to PDAC in KrasG12D mice. In IER3-deficient mice, pancreatitis abolished KrasG12D-induced proliferation, which suggests that pancreatitis enhances the oncogenic effect of KRAS through induction of IER3 expression. Together, our data indicate that IER3 supports KRASG12D-associated oncogenesis in the pancreas by sustaining ERK1/2 phosphorylation via phosphatase PP2A inhibition.
Project description:BACKGROUND & AIMS:Identification and validation of new functionally relevant and pharmacologically actionable targets for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) remains a great challenge. Premalignant acinar cell reprogramming (acinar-to-ductal metaplasia [ADM]) is a precursor of pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) lesions that can progress to PDAC. This study investigated the role of proline-rich tyrosine kinase 2 (PYK2) in mutant Kras-induced and pancreatitis-associated ADM and PanIN formation, as well as in PDAC maintenance. METHODS:Genetically engineered mouse models of mutant Kras (glycine 12 to aspartic acid) and Pyk2 deletion were used for investigating the role of PYK2 in PDAC genesis in mice. In vitro ADM assays were conducted using primary pancreatic acinar cells isolated from mice. Immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence, and a series of biochemical experiments were used to investigate upstream regulators/downstream targets of PYK2 in pancreatic carcinogenesis. PDAC cell line xenograft experiments were performed to study the role of PYK2 and its downstream target in PDAC maintenance. RESULTS:PYK2 was increased substantially in ADM lesions induced by mutant Kras or inflammatory injury. Pyk2 deletion remarkably suppressed ADM and PanIN formation in a mutant Kras-driven and pancreatitis-associated PDAC model, whereas PYK2 knockdown substantially inhibited PDAC cell growth in vitro and in nude mice. This study uncovered a novel yes-associated protein 1/transcriptional co-activator with PDZ binding motif/signal transducer and activator of transcription 3/PYK2/?-catenin regulation axis in PDAC. Our results suggest that PYK2 contributes to PDAC genesis and maintenance by activating the Wnt/?-catenin pathway through directly phosphorylating ?-cateninY654. CONCLUSIONS:The current study uncovers PYK2 as a novel downstream effector of mutant KRAS signaling, a previously unrecognized mediator of pancreatitis-induced ADM and a novel intervention target for PDAC.
Project description:Targeting of oncogenic Kras to the pancreatic Nestin-expressing embryonic progenitor cells and subsequently to the adult acinar compartment and Nestin-expressing cells is sufficient for the development of low grade pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) between 2 and 4 months. The mice die around 6 month-old of unrelated causes, and it is therefore not possible to assess whether the lesions will progress to carcinoma. We now report that two brief episodes of caerulein-induced acute pancreatitis in 2 month-old mice causes rapid PanIN progression and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) development by 4 months of age. These events occur with similar frequency as observed in animals where the oncogene is targeted during embryogenesis to all pancreatic cell types. Thus, these data show that oncogenic Kras-driven PanIN originating in a non-ductal compartment can rapidly progress to PDAC when subjected to a brief inflammatory insult.
Project description:Fibrosis compromises pancreatic ductal carcinoma (PDAC) treatment and contributes to patient mortality, yet antistromal therapies are controversial. We found that human PDACs with impaired epithelial transforming growth factor-? (TGF-?) signaling have high epithelial STAT3 activity and develop stiff, matricellular-enriched fibrosis associated with high epithelial tension and shorter patient survival. In several KRAS-driven mouse models, both the loss of TGF-? signaling and elevated ?1-integrin mechanosignaling engaged a positive feedback loop whereby STAT3 signaling promotes tumor progression by increasing matricellular fibrosis and tissue tension. In contrast, epithelial STAT3 ablation attenuated tumor progression by reducing the stromal stiffening and epithelial contractility induced by loss of TGF-? signaling. In PDAC patient biopsies, higher matricellular protein and activated STAT3 were associated with SMAD4 mutation and shorter survival. The findings implicate epithelial tension and matricellular fibrosis in the aggressiveness of SMAD4 mutant pancreatic tumors and highlight STAT3 and mechanics as key drivers of this phenotype.
Project description:Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) offers an optimal model for discovering "druggable" molecular pathways that participate in inflammation-associated cancer development. Chronic pancreatitis, a common prolonged inflammatory disease, behaves as a well-known premalignant condition that contributes to PDAC development. Although the mechanisms underlying the pancreatitis-to-cancer transition remain to be fully elucidated, emerging evidence supports the hypothesis that the actions of proinflammatory mediators on cells harboring Kras mutations promote neoplastic transformation. Recent elegant studies demonstrated that the IL17 pathway mediates this phenomenon and can be targeted with antibodies, but the downstream mechanisms by which IL17 functions during this transition are currently unclear. In this study, we demonstrate that IL17 induces the expression of REG3?, a well-known mediator of pancreatitis, during acinar-to-ductal metaplasia and in early pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) lesions. Furthermore, we found that REG3? promotes cell growth and decreases sensitivity to cell death through activation of the gp130-JAK2-STAT3-dependent pathway. Genetic inactivation of REG3? in the context of oncogenic Kras-driven PDAC resulted in reduced PanIN formation, an effect that could be rescued by administration of exogenous REG3?. Taken together, our findings provide mechanistic insight into the pathways underlying inflammation-associated pancreatic cancer, revealing a dual and contextual pathophysiologic role for REG3? during pancreatitis and PDAC initiation.
Project description:Both clinical and experimental evidence have firmly established that chronic pancreatitis, in particular in the context of Kras oncogenic mutations, predisposes to pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). However, the repertoire of molecular mediators of pancreatitis involved in Kras-mediated initiation of pancreatic carcinogenesis remains to be fully defined. In this study we demonstrate a novel role for vacuole membrane protein 1 (VMP1), a pancreatitis-associated protein critical for inducible autophagy, in the regulation of Kras-induced PDAC initiation. Using a newly developed genetically engineered model, we demonstrate that VMP1 increases the ability of Kras to give rise to preneoplastic lesions, pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasias (PanINs). This promoting effect of VMP1 on PanIN formation is due, at least in part, by an increase in cell proliferation combined with a decrease in apoptosis. Using chloroquine, an inhibitor of autophagy, we show that this drug antagonizes the effect of VMP1 on PanIN formation. Thus, we conclude that VMP1-mediated autophagy cooperate with Kras to promote PDAC initiation. These findings are of significant medical relevance, molecules targeting autophagy are currently being tested along chemotherapeutic agents to treat PDAC and other tumors in human trials.
Project description:Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the USA. Surgical resection is the only effective treatment; however, only 20% of patients are candidates for surgery. The ability to detect early PDAC would increase the availability of surgery and improve patient survival. This study assessed the feasibility of using the enzymatic activity of cathepsin E (Cath E), a protease highly and specifically expressed in PDAC, as a novel biomarker for the detection of pancreas-bearing pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) lesions and PDAC.Pancreas from normal, chronic pancreatitis and PDAC patients was assessed for Cath E expression by quantitative real-time PCR and immunohistochemistry. Human PDAC xenografts and genetically engineered mouse models (GEMM) of PDAC were injected with a Cath E activity selective fluorescent probe and imaged using an optical imaging system.The specificity of Cath E expression in PDAC patients and GEMM of pancreatic cancer was confirmed by quantitative real-time PCR and immunohistochemistry. The novel probe for Cath E activity specifically detected PDAC in both human xenografts and GEMM in vivo. The Cath E sensitive probe was also able to detect pancreas with PanIN lesions in GEMM before tumour formation.The elevated Cath E expression in PanIN and pancreatic tumours allowed in-vivo detection of human PDAC xenografts and imaging of pancreas with PanIN and PDAC tumours in GEMM. Our results support the usefulness of Cath E activity as a potential molecular target for PDAC and early detection imaging.
Project description:Pancreatic exocrine cell plasticity can be observed during development, pancreatitis with subsequent regeneration, and also transformation. For example, acinar-ductal metaplasia (ADM) occurs during acute pancreatitis and might be viewed as a prelude to pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) development. To elucidate regulatory processes that overlap ductal development, ADM, and the progression of normal cells to PanIN lesions, we undertook a systematic approach to identify the Prrx1 paired homeodomain Prrx1 transcriptional factor as a highly regulated gene in these processes. Prrx1 annotates a subset of pancreatic ductal epithelial cells in Prrx1creER(T2)-IRES-GFP mice. Furthermore, sorted Prrx1(+) cells have the capacity to self-renew and expand during chronic pancreatitis. The two isoforms, Prrx1a and Prrx1b, regulate migration and invasion, respectively, in pancreatic cancer cells. In addition, Prrx1b is enriched in circulating pancreatic cells (Pdx1cre;LSL-Kras(G12D/+);p53(fl/+);R26YFP). Intriguingly, the Prrx1b isoform, which is also induced in ADM, binds the Sox9 promoter and positively regulates Sox9 expression. This suggests a new hierarchical scheme whereby a Prrx1-Sox9 axis may influence the emergence of acinar-ductal metaplasia and regeneration. Furthermore, our data provide a possible explanation of why pancreatic cancer is skewed toward a ductal fate.