Exogenous interleukin-4 (IL-4) has been demonstrated to affect the growth of different human malignancies including pancreatic cancer cells. The aim of our study was to determine the role of endogenously expressed IL-4-receptor-α-chain (IL-4Rα) in pancreatic cancer cells. IL-4Rα-suppression was achieved by generating Capan-1 cells stably expressing shRNA targeting IL-4Rα. The malignant phenotype was characterized by assessing growth properties, directional and non-directional cell movement in vitro and tumor growth in vivo. Signaling pathways were analyzed upon IL-4 and IL-13 stimulation of wildtype (WT) and control-transfected cells compared to IL-4Rα-knockdown cells. Silencing of IL-4Rα resulted in reduced anchorage-dependent cell growth (p < 0.05) and reduced anchorage-independent colony size (p < 0.001) in vitro. Moreover, cell movement and migration was inhibited. IL-4 and IL-13 stimulation of Capan-1-WT cells induced activation of similar pathways like stimulation with Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I. This activation was reduced after IL-4Rα downregulation while IGF-I signaling seemed to be enhanced in knockdown-clones. Importantly, IL-4Rα silencing also significantly suppressed tumor growth in vivo. The present study indicates that endogenously expressed IL-4 and IL-4Rα contribute to the malignant phenotype of pancreatic cancer cells by activating diverse pro-oncogenic signaling pathways. Addressing these pathways may contribute to the treatment of the disease.
Keywords: IL-13-receptor-α1-chain; IL-4-receptor-α-chain; interleukin-4; interleukin-4-receptor; pancreatic cancer.