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Int J Oncol. 2012 Jan;40(1):40-6. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2011.1180. Epub 2011 Aug 29.

Dickkopf-3 maintains the PANC-1 human pancreatic tumor cells in a dedifferentiated state.

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Institute for Biomedical Aging Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria.


Pancreatic cancer (PaCa) is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in Western societies, with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDACs) accounting for >90% of such cases. PDAC is a heterogeneous disease that includes a subset showing overexpression of the secreted glycoprotein Dickkopf-related protein 3 (Dkk-3), a protein shown to be downregulated in various cancers of different tissues. The biological function of Dkk-3 in this subset was studied using the Dkk-3 expressing PANC-1 cell line as a model for PDACs. The influence of Dkk-3 overexpression and knockdown on cellular differentiation and proliferation of PANC-1 was investigated. Confocal microscopy showed that Dkk-3 was expressed in a fraction of PANC-1 cells. While lentiviral-mediated overexpression of DKK3 did not alter cellular proliferation, knockdown of DKK3 resulted in significant reduction of cellular proliferation and concomitant induction of cell cycle inhibitors CDKN2B (p15INK4b), CDKN1A (p21CIP1) and CDKN1B (p27KIP1). In parallel, pancreatic epithelial cell differentiation markers AMY2A, CELA1, CTRB1, GCG, GLB1 and INS were significantly upregulated. PANC-1 cells differentiated using exendin-4 showed analogous induction of cell cycle inhibitors and differentiation markers. Thus, we conclude that Dkk-3 is required to maintain a highly dedifferentiated and consequently proliferative state in PANC-1, indicating a similar function in the Dkk-3 overexpressing subset of PDACs. Therefore, Dkk-3 represents a potential target for the treatment of Dkk-3-positive subtypes of PaCa to drive cells into cell cycle arrest and differentiation.

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