Increased expression of tissue transglutaminase in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and its implications in drug resistance and metastasis

Author(s): Verma A, Wang H, Manavathi B, Fok JY, Mann AP, et al.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most aggressive neoplastic diseases and is virtually incurable. The molecular mechanisms that contribute to the intrinsic resistance of PDAC to various anticancer therapies are not well understood. Recently, we have observed that several drug-resistant and metastatic tumors and tumor cell lines expressed elevated levels of tissue transglutaminase (TG2). Because PDAC exhibits inherent resistance to various drugs, we determined the constitutive expression of TG2 in 75 PDAC and 12 PDAC cell lines. Our results showed that 42 of 75 (56%) PDAC tumor samples expressed higher basal levels of TG2 compared with the normal pancreatic ducts [odds ratio (OR), 2.439; P = 0.012]. The increased expression of TG2 in PDAC was strongly associated with nodal metastasis (OR, 3.400; P = 0.017) and lymphovascular invasion (OR, 3.055; P = 0.045). Increased expression of TG2 was also evident in all 12 cell lines examined. The elevated expression of TG2 in PDAC cell lines was associated with gemcitabine resistance and increased invasive potential. Overexpression of catalytically active or inactive (C(277)S mutant) TG2 induced focal adhesion kinase (FAK) activation and augmented invasive functions in the BxPC-3 cell line. Conversely, down-regulation of TG2 by small interfering RNA attenuated FAK phosphorylation. Immunoprecipitation and confocal microscopy data revealed that TG2 was associated with FAK protein in PDAC cells. The activated FAK colocalized with TG2 at focal adhesion points. These results show for the first time that elevated expression of TG2 can induce constitutive activation of FAK and thus may contribute to the development of drug resistance and invasive phenotypes in PDAC.

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