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Oncogene. 2011 Feb 24;30(8):1002-8. doi: 10.1038/onc.2010.485. Epub 2010 Nov 8.

Collagen regulation of let-7 in pancreatic cancer involves TGF-β1-mediated membrane type 1-matrix metalloproteinase expression.

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  • 1Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, IL, USA.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is associated with a pronounced collagen-rich fibrosis known as desmoplastic reaction; however, the role of fibrosis in PDAC is poorly understood. In this report we show that collagen can regulate the tumor suppressive let-7 family of microRNAs in pancreatic cancer cells. PDAC cells growing in 3D collagen gels repress mature let-7 without affecting the precursor form of let-7 in part through increased expression of membrane type 1-matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP, MMP-14) and ERK1/2 activation. PDAC cells in collagen also demonstrate increased TGF-β1 signaling, and blocking TGF-β1 signaling attenuated collagen-induced MT1-MMP expression, ERK1/2 activation and repression of let-7 levels. Although MT1-MMP overexpression was not sufficient to inhibit let-7 on 2D tissue culture plastic, overexpression of MT1-MMP in PDAC cells embedded in 3D collagen gels or grown in vivo repressed let-7 levels. Importantly, MT1-MMP expression significantly correlated with decreased levels of let-7 in human PDAC tumor specimens. Overall, our study emphasizes the interplay between the key proteinase MT1-MMP and its substrate type I collagen in modulating microRNA expression, and identifies an additional mechanism by which fibrosis may contribute to PDAC progression.

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