Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is characterized by high expression of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β and the G protein-coupled receptor proteinase-activated receptor 2 (PAR2), the latter of which functions as a cell-surface sensor for serine proteinases asscociated with the tumour microenvironment. Since TGF-β and PAR2 affect tumourigenesis by regulating migration, invasion and metastasis, we hypothesized that there is signalling crosstalk between them. Depleting PDAC and non-PDAC cells of PAR2 by RNA interference strongly decreased TGF-β1-induced activation of Smad2/3 and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, Smad dependent transcriptional activity, expression of invasion associated genes, and cell migration/invasion in vitro. Likewise, the plasminogen activator-inhibitor 1 gene in primary cultures of aortic smooth muscle cells from PAR2-/- mice displayed a greatly attenuated sensitivity to TGF-β1 stimulation. PAR2 depletion in PDAC cells resulted in reduced protein and mRNA levels of the TGF-β type I receptor activin receptor-like kinase 5 (ALK5). Forced expression of wild-type ALK5 or a kinase-active ALK5 mutant, but not a kinase-active but Smad-binding defective ALK5 mutant, was able to rescue TGF-β1-induced Smad3 activation, Smad dependent transcription, and cell migration in PAR2-depleted cells. Together, our data show that PAR2 is crucial for TGF-β1-induced cell motility by its ability to sustain expression of ALK5. Therapeutically targeting PAR2 may thus be a promising approach in preventing TGF-β-dependent driven metastatic dissemination in PDAC and possibly other stroma-rich tumour types.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)