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Cell Growth & Differentiation Vol. 11, 137-147, March 2000
© 2000 American Association for Cancer Research

Role of the Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factor p48 in the Differentiation Phenotype of Exocrine Pancreas Cancer Cells1

Teresa Adell, Alicia Gómez-Cuadrado, Anouchka Skoudy, Olive S. Pettengill, Daniel S. Longnecker and Francisco X. Real2

Unitat de Biologia Cel.lular i Molecular, Institut Municipal d’Investigació Mèdica, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, 08003 Barcelona, Spain [T. A., A. G-C., A. S., F. X. R.], and Department of Pathology, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, New Hampshire 03756 [O. S. P., D. S. L.]

The majority of human pancreatic adenocarcinomas display a ductal phenotype; experimental studies indicate that tumors with this phenotype can arise from both acinar and ductal cells. In normal pancreas acinar cells, the pancreas transcription factor 1 transcriptional complex is required for gene expression. Pancreas transcription factor 1 is a heterooligomer of pancreas-specific (p48) and ubiquitous (p75/E2A and p64/HEB) basic helix-loop-helix proteins. We have examined the role of p48 in the phenotype of azaserine-induced rat DSL6 tumors and cancers of the human exocrine pancreas. Serially transplanted acinar DSL6 tumors express p48 whereas DSL6-derived cell lines, and the tumors induced by them, display a ductal phenotype and lack p48. In human pancreas cancer cell lines and tissues, p48 is present in acinar tumors but not in ductal tumors. Transfection of ductal pancreas cancers with p48 cDNA did not activate the expression of amylase nor a reporter gene under the control of the rat elastase promoter. In some cell lines, p48 was detected in the nucleus whereas in others it was cytoplasmic, as in one human acinar tumor. Together with prior work, our findings indicate that p48 is associated with the acinar phenotype of exocrine pancreas cancers and it is necessary, but not sufficient, for the expression of the acinar phenotype.




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