A role for human MUC4 mucin gene, the ErbB2 ligand, as a target of TGF-β in pancreatic carcinogenesis

Nicolas Jonckheere, Michaël Perrais, Christophe Mariette, Surinder K. Batra, Jean Pierre Aubert, Pascal Pigny, Isabelle Van Seuningen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


MUC4 encodes a large transmembrane mucin that is overexpressed in pancreatic adenocarcinomas. The molecular mechanisms responsible for that altered pattern of expression are unknown. TGF-β, a pleiotropic cytokine, regulates numerous genes involved in pancreatic carcinogenesis via activation of the Smads proteins and MUC4 promoter is rich in Smad-binding elements. Our aim was to study whether the regulation of MUC4 expression by TGF-β in pancreatic cancer cells was strictly dependent on Smad4 activity. Three pancreatic cancer cell lines, CAPAN-1 (MUC4 + /Smad4-), CAPAN-2 (MUC4 + / Smad4 +) and PANC-1 (MUC4-/Smad4 +), were used. By RT-PCR, transfection assays and immunohistochemistry, we show that (i) both MUC4 mRNA and apomucin expression are upregulated by TGF-β, (ii) Smad2 positively cooperates with Smad4 to activate the promoter, (iii) activation of Smad4 by exogenous TGF-β induces Smad4 binding to the promoter, (iv) Smad7 and c-ski both inhibit activation by Smad4. When Smad4 is mutated and inactive, TGF-β activates MUC4 expression via MAPK, PI3K and PKA signaling pathways. Absence of expression in PANC-1 cells is due to histone deacetylation. Altogether, these results indicate that upregulation of MUC4 by TGF-β is restricted to well-differentiated pancreatic cancer cells, and point out a novel mechanism for TGF-β as a key molecule in targeting MUC4 overexpression in pancreatic adenocarcinomas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5729-5738
Number of pages10
Issue number34
StatePublished - Jul 29 2004


  • Acetylation
  • MUC4
  • Mucin
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Smad4
  • TGF-β
  • Transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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