Secreted mucin 5AC (MUC5AC) is the most abundantly over-expressed member of the mucin family during early pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia stage I (PanIN-I) of pancreatic cancer. To comprehend the contribution of Muc5ac in pancreatic cancer pathology, we genetically ablated it in an autochthonous murine model (KrasG12D; Pdx-1cre, KC), which mirrors the early stages of pancreatic cancer development. Neoplastic onset and the PanIN lesion progression were significantly delayed in Muc5ac knockout (KrasG12D; Pdx-1 cre; Muc5ac-/-, KCM) animals with a 50% reduction in PanIN-2 and 70% reduction in PanIN-3 lesions compared with KC at 50 weeks of age. High-throughput RNA-sequencing analysis from pancreatic tissues of KCM animals revealed a significant decrease in cancer stem cell (CSC) markers Aldh1a1, Klf4, EpCAM, and CD133. Furthermore, the silencing of MUC5AC in human pancreatic cancer cells reduced their tumorigenic propensity, as indicated by a significant decline in tumor formation frequency by limiting dilution assay upon subcutaneous administration. The contribution of MUC5AC in CSC maintenance was corroborated by a significant decrease in tumor burden upon orthotopic implantation of MUC5AC-depleted pancreatic cancer cells. Mechanistically, MUC5AC potentiated oncogenic signaling through integrin avb5, pSrc (Y416), and pSTAT3 (Y705). Phosphorylated STAT3, in turn, upregulated Klf4 expression, thereby enriching the self-renewing CSC population. A strong positive correlation of Muc5ac with Klf4 and pSTAT3 in the PanIN lesions of KC mouse pancreas reinforces the crucial involvement of MUC5AC in bolstering the CSC-associated tumorigenic properties of Kras-induced metaplastic cells, which leads to pancreatic cancer onset and progression. Significance: This study elucidates that de novo expression of MUC5AC promotes cancer cell stemness during Kras-driven pancreatic tumorigenesis and can be targeted for development of a novel therapeutic regimen.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research