A significant epidemiological association between obesity and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has previously been described, as well as a correlation between the degree of pancreatic steatosis, PDAC risk and prognosis. The underlying mechanisms are still not completely known.After co-culture of 3T3-L1 adipocytes and MiaPaCa2 with an in vitro transwell system we observed the appearance of fibroblast-like cells, along with a decrease in number and size of remaining adipocytes. RT-PCR analyses of 3T3-L1 adipocytes in co-culture showed a decrease in gene expression of typical markers of mature adipocytes, in parallel with an increased expression of fibroblast-specific and reprogramming genes. We found an increased WNT5a gene and protein expression early in MiaPaCa2 cells in co-culture. Additionally, EMSA of c-Jun and AP1 in 3T3-L1 demonstrated an increased activation in adipocytes after co-culture. Treatment with WNT5a neutralizing antibody completely reverted the activation of c-Jun and AP1 observed in co-cultured adipocytes.Increasing doses of recombinant SFRP-5, a competitive inhibitor for WNT5a receptor, added to the co-culture medium, were able to block the dedifferentiation of adipocytes in co-culture.These data support a WNT5a-mediated dedifferentiation process with adipocytes reprogramming toward fibroblast-like cells that might profoundly influence cancer microenvironment.
Keywords: WNT5a; adipocytes; cell dedifferentiation; pancreatic cancer; tumor microenvironment.