Loss of BNIP3 expression is a late event in pancreatic cancer contributing to chemoresistance and worsened prognosis

Oncogene. 2005 Jun 23;24(27):4421-32. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1208642.


Altered expression of apoptosis-regulating genes plays an important role in the aggressive growth behavior and chemoresistance of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. In the present study, the hypoxia-inducible proapoptotic gene, BNIP3, was analysed in terms of expression, effect on patient survival, and chemo-responsiveness in pancreatic cancer cell lines. cDNA microarray, real-time light cycler quantitative polymerase chain reaction, laser-capture microdissection, and immunohistochemistry analyses were used to evaluate BNIP3 expression in normal and diseased pancreatic specimens. Modulation of BNIP3 expression was achieved using specific siRNA molecules. The effect of chemotherapeutic agents on pancreatic cancer cells was assessed utilizing 3-(4,5-methylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl-tetrazolium-bromide assays. BNIP3 mRNA levels were 3.0- and 6.3-fold lower in chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer compared to the normal pancreas, respectively. Microdissection analysis confirmed the reduction of BNIP3 expression in pancreatic cancer cells compared to normal duct cells. By immunohistochemistry, BNIP3 was predominantly expressed in the acinar cells of the normal and diseased pancreas. Interestingly, while BNIP3 was undetectable in the cancer cells of 59% of the cases, 75-100% of PanIN2/3 lesions displayed BNIP3 immunoreactivity. Loss of BNIP3 expression correlated with poorer survival of patients (8 vs 14 months for BNIP3 negative vs positive tumors). Hypoxia induced BNIP3 expression in four out of eight pancreatic cancer cell lines, while it was absent under normoxic and hypoxic conditions in the remaining four. Downregulation of BNIP3 resulted in increased resistance to 5-fluoro-uracil and gemcitabine. In conclusion, loss of BNIP3 expression occurs late in pancreatic cancer, contributes to resistance to chemotherapy, and correlates with a worsened prognosis.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Deoxycytidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Deoxycytidine / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm* / drug effects
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic* / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / deficiency*
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / deficiency*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Survival Rate


  • BNIP3 protein, human
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Deoxycytidine
  • gemcitabine
  • Fluorouracil