Loss of the transcription factor GLI1 identifies a signaling network in the tumor microenvironment mediating KRAS oncogene-induced transformation

Lisa D. Mills, Yaqing Zhang, Ronald J. Marler, Marta Herreros-Villanueva, Lizhi Zhang, Luciana L. Almada, Fergus Couch, Cynthia Wetmore, Marina Pasca Di Magliano, Martin E. Fernandez-Zapico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Although the biological role of KRAS is clearly established in carcinogenesis, the molecular mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are not completely understood. In this study, we provide evidence ofanovel signaling network regulated by the transcription factor GLI1 mediating KRAS-induced carcinogenesis. Using pancreatic cancer(adisease with high prevalence of KRAS mutations) as a model, we show that loss of GLI1 blocks the progression of KRAS-induced pancreatic preneoplastic lesions in mice with pancreas-specific Cre-activated oncogenic mutant kras. Mice lacking GLI1 develop only low-grade lesions at low frequency, and in most cases, the pancreata are histologically normal. Further characterization of the phenotype showed a decrease in the activation of STAT3 in pancreatic preneoplastic lesions; STAT3 is a transcription factor required for the development of premalignant lesions and their progression into pancreatic cancer. Analysis of the mechanisms revealed a key role for GLI1 in maintaining the levels of activated STAT3 through the modulation of IL-6 signaling. GLI1 binds to the IL-6 mouse promoter and regulates the activity and expression of this cytokine. This newly identified GLI1/IL-6 axis is active in fibroblasts, a known source of IL-6 in the tumor microenvironment. Sonic hedgehog induces GLI1 binding to the IL-6 promoter and increases IL-6 expression in fibroblasts in a paracrine manner. Finally, wedemonstrate that mutant KRAS initiates this cascade by inducing the expression of Sonic hedgehog in cancer cells. Collectively, these results define a novel role for GLI1 in carcinogenesis actingasadownstream effectorofoncogenic KRAS in the tumor microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11786-11794
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 26 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Loss of the transcription factor GLI1 identifies a signaling network in the tumor microenvironment mediating KRAS oncogene-induced transformation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this