Purpose: Neuropilin-2 (NRP-2) is a coreceptor for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) on endothelial cells. NRP-2 is overexpressed in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cells relative to nonmalignant ductal epithelium. This study determined the role of NRP-2 in PDAC cells.
Experimental design: NRP-2 expression was reduced in PDAC cells with stable short-hairpin RNA (shRNA) transfection. Western blotting was done to evaluate signaling intermediates. Migration and invasion studies were carried out in Boyden chambers. Anchorage-independent growth was assessed by soft-agar colony formation. In vivo growth was evaluated using murine subcutaneous and orthotopic xenograft models. Immunohistochemical analysis evaluated in vivo proliferation and angiogenesis.
Results: shRNA-NRP-2 decreased NRP-2 levels without affecting neuropilin-1 levels. Akt activation was decreased in clones with reduced NRP-2 (shRNA-NRP-2). shRNA-NRP-2 cells showed decreased migration, invasion, and anchorage-independent growth compared with control cells. In vitro proliferation rates were similar in control- and shRNA-transfected cells. Subcutaneous and orthotopic xenografts from shRNA-transfected cells were significantly smaller than those resulting from control-transfected cells (P < 0.05). Furthermore, shRNA-NRP-2 tumors exhibited less cellular proliferation and decreased microvascular area relative to control tumors (P < 0.05). Constitutive expression of the angiogenic mediator Jagged-1 was reduced in shRNA-NRP-2 cells, whereas vascular endothelial growth factor levels were unchanged.
Conclusion: Reduction of NRP-2 expression in PDAC cells decreased survival signaling, migration, invasion, and ability to grow under anchorage-independent conditions. In vivo, reduction of NRP-2 led to decreased growth of xenograft tumors and decreased vascular area, which was associated with decreased Jagged-1 levels. NRP-2 is a potential therapeutic target on PDAC cells.