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Int J Oncol. 2001 Jul;19(1):71-81.

Altered expression of TGFB receptors and mitogenic effects of TGFB in pancreatic carcinomas.

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Department of Clinical Genetics, University Hospital, SE-221 85 Lund, Sweden.


Alteration of the transforming growth factor beta (TGFB) signalling pathway is important in pancreatic carcinogenesis, as shown by the frequent inactivation of the downstream target SMAD4. We recently analysed a series of pancreatic carcinoma cell lines with respect to alterations of five SMAD genes involved in TGFB signalling, and showed that SMAD4 was structurally rearranged in 42% of these. This pathway may, however, also be affected by alterations of genes whose products regulate the activation of TGFB as well as of TGFB receptor genes. We therefore studied the expression of UPA, UPAR, IGF2R, ALK5 (TGFBR1), TGFBR2, TGFBR3, ENG, ALK1, TGFB1, TGFB2, and TGFB3 in a series of 14 pancreatic carcinoma cell lines. We also analysed ALK5 and TGFBR2 for mutations, cell surface localisation of TGFBR2 and ENG, and TGFB1 response. No mutations of ALK5 or TGFBR2 were found. However, 4 cell lines were methylated within the ALK5 promoter region. ALK5 expression was strongly reduced in 9 cases, whereas TGFBR2 expression was increased in 12 of the cell lines. The TGFB signalling associated receptors ENG and ALK1 were co-expressed in 4 of the cell lines. There was no evidence for disruption of the UPAR-IGF2R TGFB activating pathway. The response to TGFB1 was analysed in 12 cell lines, and 6 of these (50%) showed increased proliferation. The cell lines stimulated by TGFB showed frequent mutations of SMAD4, KRAS2, and TP53, as well as frequent absence of CDKN2B expression. These results suggest that the ALK5-SMAD4 part of the TGFB signalling pathway is a major target for inactivation in pancreatic carcinomas, that the expression of TGFBR2, TGFBR3, and receptors involved in TGFB activation are maintained, and that alterations of components of the TGFB signalling pathway may be accompanied by a positive effect of TGFB on cell growth.

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