Understanding the initiation and progression of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) may provide therapeutic strategies for this deadly disease. Recently, we and others made the surprising finding that PDAC and its preinvasive precursors, pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN), arise via reprogramming of mature acinar cells. We therefore hypothesized that the master regulator of acinar differentiation, PTF1A, could play a central role in suppressing PDAC initiation. Here, we demonstrate that PTF1A expression is lost in both mouse and human PanINs, and that this downregulation is functionally imperative in mice for acinar reprogramming by oncogenic KRAS. Loss of Ptf1a alone is sufficient to induce acinar-to-ductal metaplasia, potentiate inflammation, and induce a KRAS-permissive, PDAC-like gene expression profile. As a result, Ptf1a-deficient acinar cells are dramatically sensitized to KRAS transformation, and reduced Ptf1a greatly accelerates development of invasive PDAC. Together, these data indicate that cell differentiation regulators constitute a new tumor suppressive mechanism in the pancreas.
Animal experimentation: This study was performed according to institutional and National Institutes of Health guidelines for animal research (Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals), and followed protocols approved by the institutional animal care and use committees of the University of Utah (protocol #13-09009), University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (protocol #2013-0008) and Vanderbilt University (protocol #M10/106).
- Michael R Green, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Massachusetts Medical School, United States
© 2015, Krah et al.
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Defining the origin of neuronal diversity is a major challenge in developmental neurobiology. The Drosophila visual system is an excellent paradigm to study how cellular diversity is generated. Photoreceptors from the eye disc grow their axons into the optic lobe and secrete Hedgehog (Hh) to induce the lamina, such that for every unit eye there is a corresponding lamina unit made up of post-mitotic precursors stacked into columns. Each differentiated column contains five lamina neuron types (L1-L5), making it the simplest neuropil in the optic lobe, yet how this diversity is generated was unknown. Here, we found that Hh pathway activity is graded along the distal-proximal axis of lamina columns, and further determined that this gradient in pathway activity arises from a gradient of Hh ligand. We manipulated Hh pathway activity cell autonomously in lamina precursors and non-cell autonomously by inactivating the Hh ligand and by knocking it down in photoreceptors. These manipulations showed that different thresholds of activity specify unique cell identities, with more proximal cell types specified in response to progressively lower Hh levels. Thus, our data establish that Hh acts as a morphogen to pattern the lamina. Although this is the first such report during Drosophila nervous system development, our work uncovers a remarkable similarity with the vertebrate neural tube, which is patterned by Sonic Hh. Altogether, we show that differentiating neurons can regulate the neuronal diversity of their distant target fields through morphogen gradients.
Neural circuit formation and function require that diverse neurons are specified in appropriate numbers. Known strategies for controlling neuronal numbers involve regulating either cell proliferation or survival. We used the Drosophila visual system to probe how neuronal numbers are set. Photoreceptors from the eye-disc induce their target field, the lamina, such that for every unit eye there is a corresponding lamina unit (column). Although each column initially contains ~6 post-mitotic lamina precursors, only 5 differentiate into neurons, called L1-L5; the ‘extra’ precursor, which is invariantly positioned above the L5 neuron in each column, undergoes apoptosis. Here, we showed that a glial population called the outer chiasm giant glia (xgO), which resides below the lamina, secretes multiple ligands to induce L5 differentiation in response to epidermal growth factor (EGF) from photoreceptors. By forcing neuronal differentiation in the lamina, we uncovered that though fated to die, the ‘extra’ precursor is specified as an L5. Therefore, two precursors are specified as L5s but only one differentiates during normal development. We found that the row of precursors nearest to xgO differentiate into L5s and, in turn, antagonise differentiation signalling to prevent the ‘extra’ precursors from differentiating, resulting in their death. Thus, an intricate interplay of glial signals and feedback from differentiating neurons defines an invariant and stereotyped pattern of neuronal differentiation and programmed cell death to ensure that lamina columns each contain exactly one L5 neuron.