Semaphorin-5A maintains epithelial phenotype of malignant pancreatic cancer cells

Sugandha Saxena, Abhilasha Purohit, Michelle L. Varney, Yuri Hayashi, Rakesh K. Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Pancreatic cancer (PC) is a highly aggressive disease, and the lethality of this disease stems from early metastatic dissemination where surgical removal cannot provide a cure. Improvement of the therapeutic outcome and overall survival of PC patients requires to understand the fundamental processes that lead to metastasis such as the gain of cellular migration ability. One such family of proteins, which are essential players of cellular migration, is Semaphorin. Previously, we have identified one of the Semaphorin family member, Semaphorin-5A (SEMA5A) to be involved in organ-specific homing during PC metastasis. We have also demonstrated that SEMA5A has a constitutive expression in PC cell lines derived from metastatic sites in comparison with low endogenous expression in the primary tumor-derived cell line. In this study, we examined whether constitutive SEMA5A expression in metastatic PC cells regulates tumor growth and metastatic potential. Methods: We generated SEMA5A knockdown in T3M-4 and CD18/HPAF cells and assessed their phenotypes on in vitro motility, tumor growth, and metastatic progression. Results: In contrary to our initial expectations, orthotopic injection of SEMA5A knockdown cells into nude mice resulted in a significant increase in both tumor burden and liver metastases in comparison with the Control cells. Similarly, we observed higher in vitro migratory potential with pronounced morphological changes associated with epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a decrease in the expression of epithelial marker E-cadherin (E-Cad), increase in the expression of mesenchymal markers N-cadherin (N-Cad) and Snail and the activation of the Wnt-signaling pathway in SEMA5A knockdown cells. Furthermore, re-establishing SEMA5A expression with a knockdown resistant mouse Sema5A in SEMA5A knockdown cells resulted in a reversion to the epithelial state (mesenchymal-epithelial transition; MET), as indicated by the rescue of E-Cad expression and a decrease in N-Cad and Snail expression. Conclusions: Collectively, our data suggest that SEMA5A expression maintains epithelial phenotype in the metastatic microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1283
JournalBMC cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 22 2018


  • Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT)
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Semaphorin-5A
  • Tumor growth and metastasis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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