Axed MUC4 (MUC4/X) aggravates pancreatic malignant phenotype by activating integrin-β1/FAK/ERK pathway

Rahat Jahan, Muzafar A Macha, Satyanarayana Rachagani, Srustidhar Das, Lynette M. Smith, Sukhwinder Kaur, Surinder K. Batra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Alternative splicing is evolving as an eminent player of oncogenic signaling for tumor development and progression. Mucin 4 (MUC4), a type I membrane-bound mucin, is differentially expressed in pancreatic cancer (PC) and plays a critical role in its progression and metastasis. However, the molecular implications of MUC4 splice variants during disease pathogenesis remain obscure. The present study delineates the pathological and molecular significance of a unique splice variant of MUC4, MUC4/X, which lacks the largest exon 2, along with exon 3. Exon 2 encodes for the highly glycosylated tandem repeat (TR) domain of MUC4 and its absence creates MUC4/X, which is devoid of TR. Expression analysis from PC clinical samples revealed significant upregulation of MUC4/X in PC tissues with most differential expression in poorly differentiated tumors. In vitro studies suggest that overexpression of MUC4/X in wild-type-MUC4 (WT-MUC4) null PC cell lines markedly enhanced PC cell proliferation, invasion, and adhesion to extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. Furthermore, MUC4/X overexpression leads to an increase in the tumorigenic potential of PC cells in orthotopic transplantation studies. In line with these findings, doxycycline-induced expression of MUC4/X in an endogenous WT-MUC4 expressing PC cell line (Capan-1) also displayed enhanced cell proliferation, invasion, and adhesion to ECM, compared to WT-MUC4 alone, emphasizing its direct involvement in the aggressive behavior of PC cells. Investigation into the molecular mechanism suggested that MUC4/X facilitated PC tumorigenesis via integrin-β1/FAK/ERK signaling pathway. Overall, these findings revealed the novel role of MUC4/X in promoting and sustaining the oncogenic features of PC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2538-2549
Number of pages12
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Basis of Disease
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • MUC4
  • MUC4/X
  • Metastasis
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Splice isoform
  • Tumorigenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology


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