Epiregulin belongs to the epidermal growth factor (EGF) family of polypeptides. Previous studies have underscored the important role of the EGF family of ligands and receptors in the pathology of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and chronic pancreatitis (CP). It is not known, however, whether epiregulin may also have a role in these diseases. Therefore, in the present study we investigated the expression and function of epiregulin in five pancreatic cancer cell lines and in PDAC and CP tissue samples. Epiregulin mRNA was present at high (MIA-PaCa-2 cells) or moderate levels (ASPC-1, CAPAN-1, and T3M4) in most cells, but was below detection levels in PANC-1 cells. All the cell lines exhibited a dose-dependent increase in growth in response to recombinant human epiregulin. Epiregulin mRNA levels were increased 2.1-fold in PDAC samples (P < 0.01) and 1.7-fold in CP samples (P < 0.01), when compared with the normal controls. There was no correlation between epiregulin mRNA levels and tumor stage or grade. By in situ hybridization, a moderate to intense epiregulin mRNA signal was present in most pancreatic cancer cells in PDAC. In contrast, only a weak (normal pancreas) to moderate (CP) signals were present in the ductal and acinar cells in CP. These findings suggest that epiregulin may contribute to the pathobiology of PDAC, and may also have a role in CP.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.