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Cancer Res. 2005 Mar 1;65(5):1619-26.

Gene expression profiles in pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia reflect the effects of Hedgehog signaling on pancreatic ductal epithelial cells.

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Department of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21287, USA.


Invasive pancreatic cancer is thought to develop through a series of noninvasive duct lesions known as pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN). We used cDNA microarrays interrogating 15,000 transcripts to identify 49 genes that were differentially expressed in microdissected early PanIN lesions (PanIN-1B/2) compared with microdissected normal duct epithelium. In this analysis, a cluster of extrapancreatic foregut markers, including pepsinogen C, MUC6, KLF4, and TFF1, was found to be up-regulated in PanIN. Up-regulation of these genes was further validated using combinations of real-time reverse transcription-PCR, in situ hybridization, and immunohistochemistry in a total of 150 early PanIN lesions from 81 patients. Identification of these gastrointestinal transcripts in human PanIN prompted assessment of other foregut markers by both semiquantitative and real-time reverse transcription-PCR, revealing similar up-regulation of Sox-2, Gastrin, HoxA5, GATA4/5/6, Villin and Forkhead 6 (Foxl1). In contrast to frequent expression of multiple gastric epithelial markers, the intestinal markers intestinal fatty acid binding protein, CDX1 and CDX2 were rarely expressed either in PanIN lesions or in invasive pancreatic cancer. Hedgehog pathway activation induced by transfection of immortalized human pancreatic ductal epithelial cells with Gli1 resulted in up-regulation of the majority of foregut markers seen in early PanIN lesions. These data show frequent up-regulation of foregut markers in early PanIN lesions and suggest that PanIN development may involve Hedgehog-mediated conversion to a gastric epithelial differentiation program.

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