Oncogenic KRAS Induces NIX-Mediated Mitophagy to Promote Pancreatic Cancer.
ABSTRACT: Activating KRAS mutations are found in nearly all cases of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), yet effective clinical targeting of oncogenic KRAS remains elusive. Understanding of KRAS-dependent PDAC-promoting pathways could lead to the identification of vulnerabilities and the development of new treatments. We show that oncogenic KRAS induces BNIP3L/NIX expression and a selective mitophagy program that restricts glucose flux to the mitochondria and enhances redox capacity. Loss of Nix restores functional mitochondria to cells, increasing demands for NADPH reducing power and decreasing proliferation in glucose-limited conditions. Nix deletion markedly delays progression of pancreatic cancer and improves survival in a murine (KPC) model of PDAC. Although conditional Nix ablation in vivo initially results in the accumulation of mitochondria, mitochondrial content eventually normalizes via increased mitochondrial clearance programs, and pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) lesions progress to PDAC. We identify the KRAS-NIX mitophagy program as a novel driver of glycolysis, redox robustness, and disease progression in PDAC. SIGNIFICANCE: NIX-mediated mitophagy is a new oncogenic KRAS effector pathway that suppresses functional mitochondrial content to stimulate cell proliferation and augment redox homeostasis. This pathway promotes the progression of PanIN to PDAC and represents a new dependency in pancreatic cancer.This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 1143.
Project description:Primary cilia have been proposed to participate in the modulation of growth factor signaling pathways. In this study, we determined that ciliogenesis is suppressed in both pancreatic cancer cells and pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) lesions in human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Primary cilia were absent in these cells even when not actively proliferating. Cilia were also absent from mouse PanIN cells in three different mouse models of PDAC driven by an endogenous oncogenic Kras allele. Inhibition of Kras effector pathways restored ciliogenesis in a mouse pancreatic cancer cell line, raising the possibility that ciliogenesis may be actively repressed by oncogenic Kras. By contrast, normal duct, islet, and centroacinar cells retained primary cilia in both human and mouse pancreata. Thus, arrested ciliogenesis is a cardinal feature of PDAC and its precursor PanIN lesions, does not require ongoing proliferation, and could potentially be targeted pharmacologically.
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:Viral control of mitochondrial quality and content has emerged as an important mechanism for counteracting the host response to virus infection. Despite the knowledge of this crucial function of some viruses, little is known about how herpesviruses regulate mitochondrial homeostasis during infection. Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) is an oncogenic virus causally related to AIDS-associated malignancies. Here, we show that HHV-8-encoded viral interferon regulatory factor 1 (vIRF-1) promotes mitochondrial clearance by activating mitophagy to support virus replication. Genetic interference with vIRF-1 expression or targeting to the mitochondria inhibits HHV-8 replication-induced mitophagy and leads to an accumulation of mitochondria. Moreover, vIRF-1 binds directly to a mitophagy receptor, NIX, on the mitochondria and activates NIX-mediated mitophagy to promote mitochondrial clearance. Genetic and pharmacological interruption of vIRF-1/NIX-activated mitophagy inhibits HHV-8 productive replication. Our findings uncover an essential role of vIRF-1 in mitophagy activation and promotion of HHV-8 lytic replication via this mechanism.
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:Rb1 encodes a cell-cycle regulator that is functionally disrupted in most human cancers. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDACs) have a high frequency of mutations in KRAS and INK4A/CDKN2A that might allow cells to bypass the regulatory actions of retinoblastoma (RB). To determine the role of loss of RB function in PDAC progression, we investigated the effects of Rb disruption during pancreatic malignant transformation initiated by oncogenic Kras.We generated mice with pancreas-specific disruption of Rb, in the absence or presence of oncogenic Kras, to examine the role of RB in pancreatic carcinogenesis.In the presence of oncogenic Kras, loss of Rb from the pancreatic epithelium accelerated formation of pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN), increased the frequency of cystic neoplasms, and promoted rapid progression toward PDAC. Early stage cancers were characterized by acute pancreatic inflammation, associated with up-regulation of proinflammatory cytokines within the pancreas. Despite the presence of markers associated with oncogene-induced senescence, low-grade PanIN were highly proliferative and expressed high levels of p53. Pancreatic cancer cell lines derived from these mice expressed high levels of cytokines, and transcriptional activity of p53 was impaired.Rb encodes a tumor suppressor that attenuates progression of oncogenic Kras-induced carcinogenesis in the pancreas by mediating the senescence response and promoting activity of the tumor suppressor p53.
Project description:Both KRAS and EGFR are essential mediators of pancreatic cancer development and interact with Argonaute 2 (AGO2) to perturb its function. Here, in a mouse model of mutant KRAS-driven pancreatic cancer, loss of AGO2 allows precursor lesion (PanIN) formation yet prevents progression to pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Precursor lesions with AGO2 ablation undergo oncogene-induced senescence with altered microRNA expression and EGFR/RAS signaling, bypassed by loss of p53. In mouse and human pancreatic tissues, PDAC progression is associated with increased plasma membrane localization of RAS/AGO2. Furthermore, phosphorylation of AGO2<sup>Y393</sup> disrupts both the wild-type and oncogenic KRAS-AGO2 interaction, albeit under different conditions. ARS-1620 (G12C-specific inhibitor) disrupts the KRAS<sup>G12C</sup>-AGO2 interaction, suggesting that the interaction is targetable. Altogether, our study supports a biphasic model of pancreatic cancer development: an AGO2-independent early phase of PanIN formation reliant on EGFR-RAS signaling, and an AGO2-dependent phase wherein the mutant KRAS-AGO2 interaction is critical for PDAC progression.
Project description:Obesity is a risk factor for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), but it is not clear how obesity contributes to pancreatic carcinogenesis. The oncogenic form of KRAS is expressed during early stages of PDAC development and is detected in almost all of these tumors. However, there is evidence that mutant KRAS requires an additional stimulus to activate its full oncogenic activity and that this stimulus involves the inflammatory response. We investigated whether the inflammation induced by a high-fat diet, and the accompanying up-regulation of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2), increases Kras activity during pancreatic carcinogenesis in mice.We studied mice with acinar cell-specific expression of KrasG12D (LSL-Kras/Ela-CreERT mice) alone or crossed with COX2 conditional knockout mice (COXKO/LSL-Kras/Ela-CreERT). We also studied LSL-Kras/PDX1-Cre mice. All mice were fed isocaloric diets with different amounts of fat, and a COX2 inhibitor was administered to some LSL-Kras/Ela-CreERT mice. Pancreata were collected from mice and analyzed for Kras activity, levels of phosphorylated extracellular-regulated kinase, inflammation, fibrosis, pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN), and PDACs.Pancreatic tissues from LSL-Kras/Ela-CreERT mice fed high-fat diets (HFDs) had increased Kras activity, fibrotic stroma, and numbers of PanINs and PDACs than LSL-Kras/Ela-CreERT mice fed control diets; the mice fed the HFDs also had shorter survival times than mice fed control diets. Administration of a COX2 inhibitor to LSL-Kras/Ela-CreERT mice prevented these effects of HFDs. We also observed a significant reduction in survival times of mice fed HFDs. COXKO/LSL-Kras/Ela-CreERT mice fed HFDs had no evidence for increased numbers of PanIN lesions, inflammation, or fibrosis, as opposed to the increases observed in LSL-Kras/Ela-CreERT mice fed HFDs.In mice, an HFD can activate oncogenic Kras via COX2, leading to pancreatic inflammation and fibrosis and development of PanINs and PDAC. This mechanism might be involved in the association between risk for PDAC and HFDs.
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 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:Most cancers arise in old individuals, which also accumulate senescent cells. Cellular senescence can be experimentally induced by expression of oncogenes or telomere shortening during serial passage in culture. In vivo, precursor lesions of several cancer types accumulate senescent cells, which are thought to represent a barrier to malignant progression and a response to the aberrant activation of growth signaling pathways by oncogenes (oncogene toxicity). Here, we sought to define gene expression changes associated with cells that bypass senescence induced by oncogenic RAS. In the context of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), oncogenic KRAS induces benign pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasias (PanINs), which exhibit features of oncogene-induced senescence. We found that the bypass of senescence in PanINs leads to malignant PDAC cells characterized by gene signatures of epithelial-mesenchymal transition, stem cells, and mitochondria. Stem cell properties were similarly acquired in PanIN cells treated with LPS, and in primary fibroblasts and mammary epithelial cells that bypassed Ras-induced senescence after reduction of ERK signaling. Intriguingly, maintenance of cells that circumvented senescence and acquired stem cell properties was blocked by metformin, an inhibitor of complex I of the electron transport chain or depletion of STAT3, a protein required for mitochondrial functions and stemness. Thus, our studies link bypass of senescence in premalignant lesions to loss of differentiation, acquisition of stemness features, and increased reliance on mitochondrial functions.