The acinar differentiation determinant PTF1A inhibits initiation of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
ABSTRACT: Understanding the initiation and progression of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) may provide therapeutic strategies for this deadly disease. Recently, we and others made the surprising finding that PDAC and its preinvasive precursors, pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN), arise via reprogramming of mature acinar cells. We therefore hypothesized that the master regulator of acinar differentiation, PTF1A, could play a central role in suppressing PDAC initiation. In this study, we demonstrate that PTF1A expression is lost in both mouse and human PanINs, and that this downregulation is functionally imperative in mice for acinar reprogramming by oncogenic KRAS. Loss of Ptf1a alone is sufficient to induce acinar-to-ductal metaplasia, potentiate inflammation, and induce a KRAS-permissive, PDAC-like gene expression profile. As a result, Ptf1a-deficient acinar cells are dramatically sensitized to KRAS transformation, and reduced Ptf1a greatly accelerates development of invasive PDAC. Together, these data indicate that cell differentiation regulators constitute a new tumor suppressive mechanism in the pancreas.
Project description:BACKGROUND & AIMS:Activating mutations in KRAS are detected in most pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDACs). Expression of an activated form of KRAS (KrasG12D) in pancreata of mice is sufficient to induce formation of pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanINs)-a precursor of PDAC. Pancreatitis increases formation of PanINs in mice that express KrasG12D by promoting acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM). We investigated the role of the transcription factor Krüppel-like factor 5 (KLF5) in ADM and KRAS-mediated formation of PanINs. METHODS:We performed studies in adult mice with conditional disruption of Klf5 (Klf5fl/fl) and/or expression of KrasG12D (LSL-KrasG12D) via CreERTM recombinase regulated by an acinar cell-specific promoter (Ptf1a). Activation of KrasG12D and loss of KLF5 was achieved by administration of tamoxifen. Pancreatitis was induced in mice by administration of cerulein; pancreatic tissues were collected, analyzed by histology and immunohistochemistry, and transcriptomes were compared between mice that did or did not express KLF5. We performed immunohistochemical analyses of human tissue microarrays, comparing levels of KLF5 among 96 human samples of PDAC. UN-KC-6141 cells (pancreatic cancer cells derived from Pdx1-Cre;LSL-KrasG12D mice) were incubated with inhibitors of different kinases and analyzed in proliferation assays and by immunoblots. Expression of KLF5 was knocked down with small hairpin RNAs or CRISPR/Cas9 strategies; cells were analyzed in proliferation and gene expression assays, and compared with cells expressing control vectors. Cells were subcutaneously injected into flanks of syngeneic mice and tumor growth was assessed. RESULTS:Of the 96 PDAC samples analyzed, 73% were positive for KLF5 (defined as nuclear staining in more than 5% of tumor cells). Pancreata from Ptf1a-CreERTM;LSL-KrasG12D mice contained ADM and PanIN lesions, which contained high levels of nuclear KLF5 within these structures. In contrast, Ptf1a-CreERTM;LSL-KrasG12D;Klf5fl/fl mice formed fewer PanINs. After cerulein administration, Ptf1a-CreERTM;LSL-KrasG12D mice formed more extensive ADM than Ptf1a-CreERTM;LSL-KrasG12D;Klf5fl/fl mice. Pancreata from Ptf1a-CreERTM;LSL-KrasG12D;Klf5fl/fl mice had increased expression of the tumor suppressor NDRG2 and reduced phosphorylation (activation) of STAT3, compared with Ptf1a-CreERTM;LSL-KrasG12D mice. In UN-KC-6141 cells, PI3K and MEK signaling increased expression of KLF5; a high level of KLF5 increased proliferation. Cells with knockdown of Klf5 had reduced proliferation, compared with control cells, had reduced expression of ductal markers, and formed smaller tumors (71.61 ± 30.79 mm3 vs 121.44 ± 34.90 mm3 from control cells) in flanks of mice. CONCLUSION:Levels of KLF5 are increased in human PDAC samples and in PanINs of Ptf1a-CreERTM;LSL-KrasG12D mice, compared with controls. KLF5 disruption increases expression of NDRG2 and reduces activation of STAT3 and reduces ADM and PanINs formation in mice. Strategies to reduce KLF5 activity might reduce progression of acinar cells from ADM to PanIN and pancreatic tumorigenesis.
Project description:Pancreatic acinar cells synthesize, package, and secrete digestive enzymes into the duodenum to aid in nutrient absorption and meet metabolic demands. When exposed to cellular stresses and insults, acinar cells undergo a dedifferentiation process termed acinar-ductal metaplasia (ADM). ADM lesions with oncogenic mutations eventually give rise to pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). In healthy pancreata, the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) factors MIST1 and PTF1a coordinate an acinar-specific transcription network that maintains the highly developed differentiation status of the cells, protecting the pancreas from undergoing a transformative process. However, when MIST1 and PTF1a gene expression is silenced, cells are more prone to progress to PDAC. In this study, we tested whether induced MIST1 or PTF1a expression in PDAC cells could (i) re-establish the transcriptional program of differentiated acinar cells and (ii) simultaneously reduce tumor cell properties. As predicted, PTF1a induced gene expression of digestive enzymes and acinar-specific transcription factors, while MIST1 induced gene expression of vesicle trafficking molecules as well as activation of unfolded protein response components, all of which are essential to handle the high protein production load that is characteristic of acinar cells. Importantly, induction of PTF1a in PDAC also influenced cancer-associated properties, leading to a decrease in cell proliferation, cancer stem cell numbers, and repression of key ATP-binding cassette efflux transporters resulting in heightened sensitivity to gemcitabine. Thus, activation of pancreatic bHLH transcription factors rescues the acinar gene program and decreases tumorigenic properties in pancreatic cancer cells, offering unique opportunities to develop novel therapeutic intervention strategies for this deadly disease.
Project description:Activating mutations in Kras are nearly ubiquitous in human pancreatic cancer and initiate precancerous pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanINs) when induced in mouse acinar cells. PanINs normally take months to form but are accelerated by deletion of acinar cell differentiation factors such as Ptf1a, suggesting that loss of cell identity is rate limiting for pancreatic tumor initiation. Using a genetic mouse model that allows for independent control of oncogenic Kras and Ptf1a expression, we demonstrate that sustained Ptf1a is sufficient to prevent Kras-driven tumorigenesis, even in the presence of tumor-promoting inflammation. Furthermore, reintroducing Ptf1a into established PanINs reverts them to quiescent acinar cells in vivo. Similarly, Ptf1a re-expression in human pancreatic cancer cells inhibits their growth and colony-forming ability. Our results suggest that reactivation of an endogenous differentiation program can prevent and reverse oncogene-driven transformation in cells harboring tumor-driving mutations, introducing a potential paradigm for solid tumor prevention and treatment.
Project description:The transdifferentiation of pancreatic acinar cells to a ductal phenotype (acinar-to-ductal metaplasia, ADM) occurs after injury or inflammation of the pancreas and is a reversible process. However, in the presence of activating Kras mutations or persistent epidermal growth factor receptor (EGF-R) signalling, cells that underwent ADM can progress to pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) and eventually pancreatic cancer. In transgenic animal models, ADM and PanINs are initiated by high-affinity ligands for EGF-R or activating Kras mutations, but the underlying signalling mechanisms are not well understood. Here, using a conditional knockout approach, we show that protein kinase D1 (PKD1) is sufficient to drive the reprogramming process to a ductal phenotype and progression to PanINs. Moreover, using 3D explant culture of primary pancreatic acinar cells, we show that PKD1 acts downstream of TGF? and Kras, to mediate formation of ductal structures through activation of the Notch pathway.
Project description:Efforts to model pancreatic cancer in mice have focused on mimicking genetic changes found in the human disease, particularly the activating KRAS mutations that occur in pancreatic tumors and their putative precursors, pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN). Although activated mouse Kras mutations induce PanIN lesions similar to those of human, only a small minority of cells that express mutant Kras go on to form PanINs. The basis for this selective response is unknown, and it is similarly unknown what cell types in the mature pancreas actually contribute to PanINs. One clue comes from the fact that PanINs, unlike most cells in the adult pancreas, exhibit active Notch signaling. We hypothesize that Notch, which inhibits differentiation in the embryonic pancreas, contributes to PanIN formation by abrogating the normal differentiation program of tumor-initiating cells. Through conditional expression in the mouse pancreas, we find dramatic synergy between activated Notch and Kras in inducing PanIN formation. Furthermore, we find that Kras activation in mature acinar cells induces PanIN lesions identical to those seen upon ubiquitous Kras activation, and that Notch promotes both initiation and dysplastic progression of these acinar-derived PanINs, albeit short of invasive adenocarcinoma. At the cellular level, Notch/Kras coactivation promotes rapid reprogramming of acinar cells to a duct-like phenotype, providing an explanation for how a characteristically ductal tumor can arise from nonductal acinar cells.
Project description:BACKGROUND & AIMS:Obesity is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. In mice, a high-fat diet (HFD) and expression of oncogenic KRAS lead to development of invasive pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) by unknown mechanisms. We investigated how oncogenic KRAS regulates the expression of fibroblast growth factor 21, FGF21, a metabolic regulator that prevents obesity, and the effects of recombinant human FGF21 (rhFGF21) on pancreatic tumorigenesis. METHODS:We performed immunohistochemical analyses of FGF21 levels in human pancreatic tissue arrays, comprising 59 PDAC specimens and 45 nontumor tissues. We also studied mice with tamoxifen-inducible expression of oncogenic KRAS in acinar cells (KrasG12D/+ mice) and fElasCreERT mice (controls). KrasG12D/+ mice were placed on an HFD or regular chow diet (control) and given injections of rhFGF21 or vehicle; pancreata were collected and analyzed by histology, immunoblots, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, and immunohistochemistry. We measured markers of inflammation in the pancreas, liver, and adipose tissue. Activity of RAS was measured based on the amount of bound guanosine triphosphate. RESULTS:Pancreatic tissues of mice expressed high levels of FGF21 compared with liver tissues. FGF21 and its receptor proteins were expressed by acinar cells. Acinar cells that expressed KrasG12D/+ had significantly lower expression of Fgf21 messenger RNA compared with acinar cells from control mice, partly due to down-regulation of PPARG expression-a transcription factor that activates Fgf21 transcription. Pancreata from KrasG12D/+ mice on a control diet and given injections of rhFGF21 had reduced pancreatic inflammation, infiltration by immune cells, and acinar-to-ductal metaplasia compared with mice given injections of vehicle. HFD-fed KrasG12D/+ mice given injections of vehicle accumulated abdominal fat, developed extensive inflammation, pancreatic cysts, and high-grade pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasias (PanINs); half the mice developed PDAC with liver metastases. HFD-fed KrasG12D/+ mice given injections of rhFGF21 had reduced accumulation of abdominal fat and pancreatic triglycerides, fewer pancreatic cysts, reduced systemic and pancreatic markers of inflammation, fewer PanINs, and longer survival-only approximately 12% of the mice developed PDACs, and none of the mice had metastases. Pancreata from HFD-fed KrasG12D/+ mice given injections of rhFGF21 had lower levels of active RAS than from mice given vehicle. CONCLUSIONS:Normal acinar cells from mice and humans express high levels of FGF21. In mice, acinar expression of oncogenic KRAS significantly reduces FGF21 expression. When these mice are placed on an HFD, they develop extensive inflammation, pancreatic cysts, PanINs, and PDACs, which are reduced by injection of FGF21. FGF21 also reduces the guanosine triphosphate binding capacity of RAS. FGF21 might be used in the prevention or treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Project description:SRY (sex determining region Y)-box 9 (SOX9) is required for oncogenic Kras-mediated acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM), pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasias (PanINs) and ultimately pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). However, how oncogenic Kras affects SOX9 activity is not yet understood, and SOX9-associated genes in PDAC are also unknown at all. Here, we investigated the mechanistic link between SOX9 and oncogenic Kras, studied biological function of SOX9, and identified SOX9-related genes and their clinical significance in patients with PDAC. Our studies reveal that oncogenic Kras induces SOX9 mRNA and protein expression as well as phosphorylated SOX9 expression in human pancreatic ductal progenitor cells (HPNE) and pancreatic ductal cells (HPDE). Moreover, oncogenic Kras promoted nuclear translocation and transcriptional activity of SOX9 in these cells. TAK1/I?B?/NF-?B pathway contributed to induction of SOX9 by oncogenic Kras, and SOX9 in turn enhanced NF-?B activation. SOX9 promoted the proliferation of HPNE and PDAC cells, and correlated with minichromosome maintenance complex components (MCMs) and mediator of DNA damage checkpoint 1 (MDC1) expression. The overexpressive MDC1 was associated with less perineural and lymph node invasion of tumors and early TNM-stage of patients. Our results indicate that oncogenic Kras induces constitutive activation of SOX9 in HPNE and HPDE cells, and Kras/TAK1/I?B?/NF-?B pathway and a positive feedback between SOX9 and NF-?B are involved in this inducing process. SOX9 accelerates proliferation of cells and affects MCMs and MDC1 expression. MDC1 is associated negatively with invasion and metastasis of PDAC.
Project description:Pancreatitis is the most important risk factor for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Pancreatitis predisposes to PDAC because it induces a process of acinar cell reprogramming known as acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM)-a precursor of pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia lesions that can progress to PDAC. Mutations in KRAS are found at the earliest stages of pancreatic tumorigenesis, and it appears to be a gatekeeper to cancer progression. We investigated how mutations in KRAS cooperate with pancreatitis to promote pancreatic cancer progression in mice.We generated mice carrying conditional alleles of Yap1 and Taz and disrupted Yap1 and Taz using a Cre-lox recombination strategy in adult mouse pancreatic acinar cells (Yap1fl/fl;Tazfl/fl;Ela1-CreERT2). We crossed these mice with LSL-KrasG12D mice, which express a constitutively active form of KRAS after Cre recombination. Pancreatic tumor initiation and progression were analyzed after chemically induced pancreatitis. We analyzed pancreatic tissues from patients with pancreatitis or PDAC by immunohistochemistry.Oncogenic activation of KRAS in normal, untransformed acinar cells in the pancreatic tissues of mice resulted in increased levels of pancreatitis-induced ADM. Expression of the constitutive active form of KRAS in this system led to activation of the transcriptional regulators YAP1 and TAZ; their function was required for pancreatitis-induced ADM in mice. The JAK-STAT3 pathway was a downstream effector of KRAS signaling via YAP1 and TAZ. YAP1 and TAZ directly mediated transcriptional activation of several genes in the JAK-STAT3 signaling pathway; this could be a mechanism by which acinar cells that express activated KRAS become susceptible to inflammation.We identified a mechanism by which oncogenic KRAS facilitates ADM and thereby generates the cells that initiate neoplastic progression. This process involves activation of YAP1 and TAZ in acinar cells, which up-regulate JAK-STAT3 signaling to promote development of PDAC in mice.
Project description:Maintenance of cell type identity is crucial for health, yet little is known of the regulation that sustains the long-term stability of differentiated phenotypes. To investigate the roles that key transcriptional regulators play in adult differentiated cells, we examined the effects of depletion of the developmental master regulator PTF1A on the specialized phenotype of the adult pancreatic acinar cell in vivo Transcriptome sequencing and chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing results showed that PTF1A maintains the expression of genes for all cellular processes dedicated to the production of the secretory digestive enzymes, a highly attuned surveillance of unfolded proteins, and a heightened unfolded protein response (UPR). Control by PTF1A is direct on target genes and indirect through a ten-member transcription factor network. Depletion of PTF1A causes an imbalance that overwhelms the UPR, induces cellular injury, and provokes acinar metaplasia. Compromised cellular identity occurs by derepression of characteristic stomach genes, some of which are also associated with pancreatic ductal cells. The loss of acinar cell homeostasis, differentiation, and identity is directly relevant to the pathologies of pancreatitis and pancreatic adenocarcinoma.
Project description:The cell of origin of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has been controversial. Here, we show that identical oncogenic drivers trigger PDAC originating from both ductal and acinar cells with similar histology but with distinct pathophysiology and marker expression dependent on cell of origin. Whereas acinar-derived tumors exhibited low AGR2 expression and were preceded by pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasias (PanINs), duct-derived tumors displayed high AGR2 and developed independently of a PanIN stage via non-mucinous lesions. Using orthotopic transplantation and chimera experiments, we demonstrate that PanIN-like lesions can be induced by PDAC as bystanders in adjacent healthy tissues, explaining the co-existence of mucinous and non-mucinous lesions and highlighting the need to distinguish between true precursor PanINs and PanIN-like bystander lesions. Our results suggest AGR2 as a tool to stratify PDAC according to cell of origin, highlight that not all PanIN-like lesions are precursors of PDAC, and add an alternative progression route to the current model of PDAC development.