Identification and manipulation of biliary metaplasia in pancreatic tumors

Kathleen E. Delgiorno, Jason C. Hall, Kenneth K. Takeuchi, Fong Cheng Pan, Christopher J. Halbrook, M. Kay Washington, Kenneth P. Olive, Jason R. Spence, Bence Sipos, Christopher V.E. Wright, James M. Wells, Howard C. Crawford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Background & Aims Metaplasias often have characteristics of developmentally related tissues. Pancreatic metaplastic ducts are usually associated with pancreatitis and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. The tuft cell is a chemosensory cell that responds to signals in the extracellular environment via effector molecules. Commonly found in the biliary tract, tuft cells are absent from normal murine pancreas. Using the aberrant appearance of tuft cells as an indicator, we tested if pancreatic metaplasia represents transdifferentiation to a biliary phenotype and what effect this has on pancreatic tumorigenesis. Methods We analyzed pancreatic tissue and tumors that developed in mice that express an activated form of Kras (Kras LSL-G12D/+;Ptf1aCre/+ mice). Normal bile duct, pancreatic duct, and tumor-associated metaplasias from the mice were analyzed for tuft cell and biliary progenitor markers, including SOX17, a transcription factor that regulates biliary development. We also analyzed pancreatic tissues from mice expressing transgenic SOX17 alone (ROSAtTa/+;Ptf1 CreERTM/+;tetO-SOX17) or along with activated Kras (ROSAtT a/+;Ptf1aCreERTM/+;tetO-SOX17;KrasLSL-G12D;+). Results Tuft cells were frequently found in areas of pancreatic metaplasia, decreased throughout tumor progression, and absent from invasive tumors. Analysis of the pancreatobiliary ductal systems of mice revealed tuft cells in the biliary tract but not the normal pancreatic duct. Analysis for biliary markers revealed expression of SOX17 in pancreatic metaplasia and tumors. Pancreas-specific overexpression of SOX17 led to ductal metaplasia along with inflammation and collagen deposition. Mice that overexpressed SOX17 along with KrasG12D had a greater degree of transformed tissue compared with mice expressing only KrasG12D. Immunofluorescence analysis of human pancreatic tissue arrays revealed the presence of tuft cells in metaplasia and early-stage tumors, along with SOX17 expression, consistent with a biliary phenotype. Conclusions Expression of KrasG12D and SOX17 in mice induces development of metaplasias with a biliary phenotype containing tuft cells. Tuft cells express a number of tumorigenic factors that can alter the microenvironment. Expression of SOX17 induces pancreatitis and promotes KrasG12D-induced tumorigenesis in mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-244.e5
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Mouse Model
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Pathogenesis
  • Signal Transduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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