ITIH5 as a multifaceted player in pancreatic cancer suppression, impairing tyrosine kinase signaling, cell adhesion and migration

Mol Oncol. 2024 Feb 20. doi: 10.1002/1878-0261.13609. Online ahead of print.


Inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor heavy chain 5 (ITIH5) has been identified as a metastasis suppressor gene in pancreatic cancer. Here, we analyzed ITIH5 promoter methylation and protein expression in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) dataset and three tissue microarray cohorts (n = 618), respectively. Cellular effects, including cell migration, focal adhesion formation and protein tyrosine kinase activity, induced by forced ITIH5 expression in pancreatic cancer cell lines were studied in stable transfectants. ITIH5 promoter hypermethylation was associated with unfavorable prognosis, while immunohistochemistry demonstrated loss of ITIH5 in the metastatic setting and worsened overall survival. Gain-of-function models showed a significant reduction in migration capacity, but no alteration in proliferation. Focal adhesions in cells re-expressing ITIH5 exhibited a smaller and more rounded phenotype, typical for slow-moving cells. An impressive increase of acetylated alpha-tubulin was observed in ITIH5-positive cells, indicating more stable microtubules. In addition, we found significantly decreased activities of kinases related to focal adhesion. Our results indicate that loss of ITIH5 in pancreatic cancer profoundly affects its molecular profile: ITIH5 potentially interferes with a variety of oncogenic signaling pathways, including the PI3K/AKT pathway. This may lead to altered cell migration and focal adhesion formation. These cellular alterations may contribute to the metastasis-inhibiting properties of ITIH5 in pancreatic cancer.

Keywords: C2TSG; ITIH5; focal adhesions; metastasis suppressor; pancreatic cancer; tumor cell migration.