Background & aims: Fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) are mitogenic polypeptides that signal via FGF receptors (FGFRs). Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDACs) overexpress multiple FGFs, implying a potential for growth modulation. In this study we investigated the importance of the IIIc splice variant of FGFR-1 (FGFR-1 IIIc) in PDAC.
Methods: Expression of FGFR-1 IIIc was determined by a ribonuclease protection assay in pancreatic cancer cell lines and in tissues. In situ hybridization was used to localize FGFR-1 IIIc messenger RNA (mRNA) in pancreatic tissues. A cDNA encoding FGFR-1 IIIc was stably transfected into the well-differentiated TAKA-1 pancreatic ductal cell line that is not responsive to FGF5 and does not express FGFR-1.
Results: FGFR-1 IIIc was expressed in 5 of 7 pancreatic cancer cell lines and in the majority of the cancer cells in 4 of 7 PDAC samples. In vitro, TAKA-1 cells stably transfected with FGFR-1 IIIc exhibited increased basal growth; enhanced basal tyrosine phosphorylation of FGFR substrate-2 (FRS2), Shc, and phospholipase Cgamma; and increased activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). PD98059, an inhibitor of MAPK, suppressed the basal growth of parental and transfected clones, but the effect was more marked in clones expressing FGFR-1 IIIc. In vivo, tumor formation in nude mice was dramatically enhanced with FGFR-1 IIIc transfected (20 of 20) in comparison with sham transfected (0 of 10) cells.
Conclusions: Our data indicate that FGFR-1 IIIc is expressed in human pancreatic cancer cells, promotes mitogenic signaling via the FRS2-MAPK pathway, and has the potential to enhance pancreatic ductal cell transformation.