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Carcinogenesis. 2012 Mar;33(3):555-62. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgs002. Epub 2012 Jan 4.

DJ-1 promotes invasion and metastasis of pancreatic cancer cells by activating SRC/ERK/uPA.

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  • 1Department of Gastroenterology, Ruijin Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200025, China.


A major hallmark of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is extensive local tumor invasion and early systemic dissemination. DJ-1 has been shown to prevent cell death via the Akt pathway, thereby playing an important role in cancer progression and Parkinson's disease development. Here, we investigated the role of DJ-1 in tumor invasion and metastasis of pancreatic cancer and showed that DJ-1 is upregulated in 68.5% of pancreatic cancer specimens, correlated with tumor stage and predictive of short overall survival. Knockdown of DJ-1 expression in two PDAC cell lines reduced cell migration and invasion potential in vitro and inhibited metastasis in vivo. Knockdown of DJ-1 led to cytoskeleton disruption and diminished urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) activity and expression, without affecting plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 and uPA receptor (uPAR) expression. All these effects were reversed by restoration of DJ-1 expression. In determining the pathway through which DJ-1 regulated cell migration and invasion, DJ-1 was found not to regulate Akt phosphorylation. Rather, it promoted extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and SRC phosphorylation. Inhibition of the ERK pathway in PDAC mimicked the effects of DJ-1 on cell migration, invasion, actin cytoskeleton and uPA/uPAR system and abolished the effects on promoting PDAC cell invasion and migration. These data represent the first identification of an important function of DJ-1, which is to regulate the invasion and metastasis properties of PDAC through the ERK/uPA cascade.

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