TGF-beta strongly promotes local tumor progression in advanced epithelial tumors, though the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. In the present study, we demonstrate the potential of TGF-beta to increase the invasiveness of the pancreatic cancer cell lines PANC-1 and IMIM-PC1. TGF-beta-induced tumor cell invasion occurred in a time-dependent manner, started after 12 hr and continued to increase even 48 hr after a single application of the growth factor. Blocking of secreted TGF-beta1 by application of neutralizing antibodies 24 hr after TGF-beta treatment completely prevented the sustained effects of TGF-beta on tumor cell invasion. Together with our previous observation that TGF-beta1 up-regulates its own expression in both cell lines, our data suggest that TGF-beta1 acts in an autocrine manner to maintain tumor cell invasion. As measured by Northern blot hybridization and zymography, TGF-beta treatment of PANC-1 and IMIM-PC1 cells resulted in strong up-regulation of expression and activity of both matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) and the urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) system. Treatment with MMP inhibitors or inhibitors of the uPA system caused significant reduction of TGF-beta-induced invasiveness in both cell lines. In contrast, expression and activity of MMP-2 and uPA as well as tumor cell invasiveness remained unaffected in cell lines with defects of the TGF-beta type II receptor (MiaPaca2) or the Smad4 gene (IMIM-PC2 and CAPAN-1). In these cell lines, TGF-beta also failed to auto-induce its own expression. In conclusion, our results suggest that TGF-beta1 is a strong promotor of pancreatic cancer progression. TGF-beta thereby acts in an autocrine manner to induce tumor cell invasion, which is mediated by MMP-2 and the uPA system.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.