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Cancer Res. 2013 Aug 1;73(15):4781-90. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-13-0566. Epub 2013 Jun 7.

PanIN-specific regulation of Wnt signaling by HIF2α during early pancreatic tumorigenesis.

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Department of Surgery, John G. Rangos Research Center, University of Pittsburgh, One Children's Hospital Drive, Rangos Floor 6, Room 6119, Pittsburgh, PA 15224, USA.


Hypoxia promotes angiogenesis, proliferation, invasion, and metastasis of pancreatic cancer. Essentially, all studies of the hypoxia pathway in pancreatic cancer research to date have focused on fully malignant tumors or cancer cell lines, but the potential role of hypoxia inducible factors (HIF) in the progression of premalignant lesions has not been critically examined. Here, we show that HIF2α is expressed early in pancreatic lesions both in human and in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer. HIF2α is a potent oncogenic stimulus, but its role in Kras-induced pancreatic neoplasia has not been discerned. We used the Ptf1aCre transgene to activate Kras(G12D) and delete Hif2α solely within the pancreas. Surprisingly, loss of Hif2α in this model led to markedly higher, rather than reduced, number of low-grade pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (mPanIN) lesions. These lesions, however, failed to progress to high-grade mPanINs, and displayed exclusive loss of β-catenin and SMAD4. The relationship among HIF2α, β-catenin, and Smad4 was further confirmed in vitro, where silencing of Hif2α resulted in reduced β-catenin and Smad4 transcript levels. Thus, with oncogenic Ras expressed in the pancreas, HIF2α modulates Wnt-signaling during mPanIN progression by maintaining appropriate levels of both Smad4 and β-catenin.

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