Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) suppresses tumor formation by blocking cell cycle progression and maintaining tissue homeostasis. In pancreatic carcinomas, this tumor suppressive activity is often lost by inactivation of the TGF-β-signaling mediator, Smad4. We found that human pancreatic carcinoma cell lines that have undergone deletion of MADH4 constitutively expressed high endogenous levels of phosphorylated receptor-associated Smad proteins (pR-Smad2 and pR-Smad3), whereas Smad4-positive lines did not. These elevated pR-Smad levels could not be attributed to a decreased dephosphorylation rate nor to increased expression of TGF-β type I (TβR-I) or type II (TβR-II) receptors. Although minimal amounts of free bioactive TGF-β1 and TGF-β2 were detected in conditioned medium, treatment with a pan-specific (but not a TGF-β3 specific) TGF-β-neutralizing antibody and with anti-α vβ66 integrin antibody decreased steady-state pSmad2 levels and activation of a TGF-β-inducible reporter gene in neighboring cells, respectively. Thus, activation of TGF-β at the cell surface was responsible for the increased autocrine endogenous and paracrine signaling. Blocking TβR-I activity using a selective kinase inhibitor (SD-093) strongly decreased the in vitro motility and invasiveness of the pancreatic carcinoma cells without affecting their growth characteristics, morphology, or the subcellular distribution of E-cadherin and F-actin. Moreover, exogenous TGF-β strongly stimulated in vitro invasiveness of BxPC-3 cells, an effect that could also be blocked by SD-093. Thus, the motile and invasive properties of Smad4-deficient pancreatic cancer cells are at least partly driven by activation of endogenous TGF-β signaling. Therefore, targeting the TβR-I kinase represents a potentially powerful novel therapeutic approach for the treatment of this disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research