One of the hallmarks of human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is its pronounced type I collagen-rich fibrotic reaction. Although recent reports have shown that the fibrotic reaction can limit the efficacy of gemcitabine chemotherapy, the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. In this article, we show that the type I collagen allows PDAC cells to override checkpoint arrest induced by gemcitabine. Relative to cells grown on tissue culture plastic, PDAC cells grown in 3-dimensional collagen microenvironment have minimal Chk1 phosphorylation and continue to proliferate in the presence of gemcitabine. Collagen increases membrane type 1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP)-dependent ERK1/2 phosphorylation to limit the effect of gemcitabine. Collagen also increases MT1-MMP-dependent high mobility group A2 (HMGA2) expression, a nonhistone DNA-binding nuclear protein involved in chromatin remodeling and gene transcription, to attenuate the effect of gemcitabine. Overexpression of MT1-MMP in the collagen microenvironment increases ERK1/2 phosphorylation and HMGA2 expression, and thereby further attenuates gemcitabine-induced checkpoint arrest. MT1-MMP also allows PDAC cells to continue to proliferate in the presence of gemcitabine in a xenograft mouse model. Clinically, human tumors with increased MT1-MMP show increased HMGA2 expression. Overall, our data show that collagen upregulation of MT1-MMP contributes to gemcitabine resistance in vitro and in a xenograft mouse model, and suggest that targeting MT1-MMP could be a novel approach to sensitize pancreatic tumors to gemcitabine.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research