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MECOM permits pancreatic acinar cell dedifferentiation avoiding cell death under stress conditions

Tijdschriftbijdrage - Tijdschriftartikel

Maintenance of the pancreatic acinar cell phenotype suppresses tumor formation. Hence, repetitive acute or chronic pancreatitis, stress conditions in which the acinar cells dedifferentiate, predispose for cancer formation in the pancreas. Dedifferentiated acinar cells acquire a large panel of duct cell specific markers. However, it remains unclear to what extent dedifferentiated acini differ from native duct cells and which genes are uniquely regulating acinar cell dedifferentiation. Moreover, most studies have been performed in mouse since the availability of human cells is scarce.

Here, we applied a non-genetic lineage tracing method in our culture model of human pancreatic exocrine cells that allowed cell-type specific gene expression profiling by RNA sequencing. Subsequent to this discovery analysis, one transcription factor that was unique for dedifferentiated acinar cells was functionally characterized using in vitro and in vivo genetic loss-of-function experimental models.

RNA sequencing analysis showed that human dedifferentiated acinar cells expressed genes in ‘Pathways of cancer’ with prominence of the transcription factor MECOM (EVI-1) that was absent from duct cells. During mouse embryonic development, pre-acinar cells transiently expressed MECOM and MECOM was re-expressed in experimental in vivo models of acute and chronic pancreatitis in vivo, conditions in which acinar cells dedifferentiate. MECOM expression correlated with and was directly regulated by SOX9. MECOM loss-of-function in mouse acinar cells in vitro and in vivo impaired cell adhesion resulting in more prominent acinar cell death and suppressed acinar cell dedifferentiation by limiting ERK signaling.

In conclusion, we transcriptionally profiled the two major human pancreatic exocrine cell types, acinar and duct cells, during experimental stress conditions. We provide insights that in dedifferentiated acinar cells, cancer pathways are upregulated in which MECOM is a critical regulator that suppresses acinar cell death by permitting cellular dedifferentiation.
Tijdschrift: Cell Death Differ
ISSN: 1350-9047
Issue: 9
Volume: 28
Pagina's: 2601-2615
Jaar van publicatie:2021