Thymidylate synthase accelerates Men1-mediated pancreatic tumor progression and reduces survival

JCI Insight. 2022 Oct 10;7(19):e147417. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.147417.


Clinical studies of cancer patients have shown that overexpression or amplification of thymidylate synthase (TS) correlates with a worse clinical outcome. We previously showed that elevated TS exhibits properties of an oncogene and promotes pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PanNETs) with a long latency. To study the causal impact of elevated TS levels in PanNETs, we generated a mouse model with elevated human TS (hTS) and conditional inactivation of the Men1 gene in pancreatic islet cells (hTS/Men1-/-). We demonstrated that increased hTS expression was associated with earlier tumor onset and accelerated PanNET development in comparison with control Men1-/- and Men1+/ΔN3-8 mice. We also observed a decrease in overall survival of hTS/Men1+/- and hTS/Men1-/- mice as compared with control mice. We showed that elevated hTS in Men1-deleted tumor cells enhanced cell proliferation, deregulated cell cycle kinetics, and was associated with a higher frequency of somatic mutations, DNA damage, and genomic instability. In addition, we analyzed the survival of 88 patients with PanNETs and observed that high TS protein expression independently predicted worse clinical outcomes. In summary, elevated hTS directly participates in promoting PanNET tumorigenesis with reduced survival in Men1-mutant background. This work will refocus attention on new strategies to inhibit TS activity for PanNET treatment.

Keywords: Mouse models; Oncogenes; Oncology; Tumor suppressors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / genetics
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / metabolism
  • Pancreas / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Thymidylate Synthase / genetics


  • Men1 protein, mouse
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Thymidylate Synthase