Despite expression of oncogenic KRAS, premalignant pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia 1 (PanIN1) lesions rarely become fully malignant pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). The molecular mechanisms through which established risk factors, such as chronic pancreatitis, acinar cell damage, and/or defective autophagy increase the likelihood of PDAC development are poorly understood. We show that accumulation of the autophagy substrate p62/SQSTM1 in stressed KrasG12D acinar cells is associated with PDAC development and maintenance of malignancy in human cells and mice. p62 accumulation promotes neoplastic progression by controlling the NRF2-mediated induction of MDM2, which acts through p53-dependent and -independent mechanisms to abrogate checkpoints that prevent conversion of differentiated acinar cells to proliferative ductal progenitors. MDM2 targeting may be useful for preventing PDAC development in high-risk individuals.
Keywords: IKKα; MDM2; NRF2; acinar cell reprogramming; impaired autophagy; p62; pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
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