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Pancreatic cancer cells respond to type I collagen by inducing snail expression to promote membrane type 1 matrix metalloproteinase-dependent collagen invasion.

Shields MA, Dangi-Garimella S, Krantz SB, Bentrem DJ, Munshi HG. Pancreatic cancer cells respond to type I collagen by inducing snail expression to promote membrane type 1 matrix metalloproteinase-dependent collagen invasion. The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2011 Mar 25; 286(12):10495-504.

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Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is characterized by pronounced fibrotic reaction composed primarily of type I collagen. Although type I collagen functions as a barrier to invasion, pancreatic cancer cells have been shown to respond to type I collagen by becoming more motile and invasive. Because epithelial-mesenchymal transition is also associated with cancer invasion, we examined the extent to which collagen modulated the expression of Snail, a well known regulator of epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Relative to cells grown on tissue culture plastic, PDAC cells grown in three-dimensional collagen gels induced Snail. Inhibiting the activity or expression of the TGF- type I receptor abrogated collagen-induced Snail. Downstream of the receptor, we showed that Smad3 and Smad4 were critical for the induction of Snail by collagen. In contrast, Smad2 or ERK1/2 was not involved in collagen-mediated Snail expression. Overexpression of Snail in PDAC cells resulted in a robust membrane type 1-matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP, MMP-14)-dependent invasion through collagen-coated transwell chambers. Snail-expressing PDAC cells also demonstrated MT1-MMP-dependent scattering in three-dimensional collagen gels. Mechanistically, Snail increased the expression of MT1-MMP through activation of ERK-MAPK signaling, and inhibiting ERK signaling in Snail-expressing cells blocked two-dimensional collagen invasion and attenuated scattering in three-dimensional collagen. To provide in vivo support for our findings that Snail can regulate MT1-MMP, we examined the expression of Snail and MT1-MMP in human PDAC tumors and found a statistically significant positive correlation between MT1-MMP and Snail in these tumors. Overall, our data demonstrate that pancreatic cancer cells increase Snail on encountering collagen-rich milieu and suggest that the desmoplastic reaction actively contributes to PDAC progression.

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