Research Papers:

Smad4-dependent suppressor pituitary homeobox 2 promotes PPP2R2A-mediated inhibition of Akt pathway in pancreatic cancer

Qi Wang, Juanjuan Li, Wei Wu, Ruizhe Shen, He Jiang, Yuting Qian, Yanping Tang, Tingting Bai, Sheng Wu, Lumin Wei, Yi Zang, Ji Zhang and Lifu Wang _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:11208-11222. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.7158

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Qi Wang1,*, Juanjuan Li1,*, Wei Wu1,*, Ruizhe Shen1,*, He Jiang1, Yuting Qian1, Yanping Tang1, Tingting Bai1, Sheng Wu1, Lumin Wei1, Yi Zang1, Ji Zhang2, Lifu Wang1

1Department of Gastroenterology, Ruijin Hospital Affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200025, China

2State Key Laboratory of Medical Genomics and Sino-French Research Center for Life Sciences and Genomics, Ruijin Hospital Affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200025, China

*Authors share co-first authorship

Correspondence to:

Lifu Wang, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: Pitx2, Smad4, PPP2R2A, pancreatic cancer, carcinogenesis

Received: September 07, 2015    Accepted: January 23, 2016    Published: February 03, 2016


The importance of Pituitary homeobox 2 (Pitx2) in malignancy remains enigmatic, and Pitx2 has not been previously implicated in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). In this study, we performed gene expression profiling of human PDAC tissues and identified Pitx2 as a promising candidate. Pitx2 expression was decreased from 2.6- to 19-fold in human PDAC tissues from microarray units. Immunochemistry staining showed that Pitx2 expression was moderate to intense in normal pancreatic and pancreatic intraepithelial neoplastic lesions, whereas low in human PDAC tissues. The Pitx2 levels correlated with overall patient survival post-operatively in PDAC. Induction of Pitx2 expression partly inhibited the malignant phenotype of PDAC cells. Interestingly, low Pitx2 expression was correlated with Smad4 mutant inactivation, but not with Pitx2 DNA-methylation. Furthermore, Smad4 protein bound to Pitx2 promoter and stimulated Pitx2 expression in PDAC. In addition, Pitx2 protein bound to the promoter of the protein phosphatase 2A regulatory subunit B55α (PPP2R2A) and upregulated PPP2R2A expression, which may activate dephosphorylation of Akt in PDAC. These findings provide new mechanistic insights into Pitx2 as a tumor suppressor in the downstream of Smad4. And Pitx2 protein promotes PPP2R2A expression which may inhibit Akt pathway. Therefore, we propose that the Smad4-Pitx2-PPP2R2A axis, a new signaling pathway, suppresses the pancreatic carcinogenesis.

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