Purpose: Aggressive pancreatic cancer is commonly associated with a dense desmoplastic stroma, which forms a protective niche for cancer cells. The objective of the study was to determine the functions of tissue transglutaminase (TG2), a Ca2-dependent enzyme that cross-links proteins through transamidation and is abundantly expressed by pancreatic cancer cells in the pancreatic stroma. Experimental Design: Orthotopic pancreatic xenografts and coculture systems tested the mechanisms by which the enzyme modulates tumor-stroma interactions. Results: We show that TG2 secreted by cancer cells effectively molds the stroma by cross-linking collagen, which, in turn, activates fibroblasts and stimulates their proliferation. The stiff fibrotic stromal reaction conveys mechanical cues to cancer cells, leading to activation of the YAP/TAZ transcription factors, promoting cell proliferation and tumor growth. Stable knockdown of TG2 in pancreatic cancer cells leads to decreased size of pancreatic xenografts. Conclusions: Taken together, our results demonstrate that TG2 secreted in the tumor microenvironment orchestrates the crosstalk between cancer cells and stroma fundamentally affecting tumor growth. Our study supports TG2 inhibition in the pancreatic stroma as a novel strategy to block pancreatic cancer progression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research