Blocking the road to de-differentiation: HNF1A/KDM6A complex safeguards epithelial integrity in pancreatic cancer

Barthel, S., Schneider, G., and Saur, D. (2020). EMBO J 39, e104759. doi: 10.15252/embj.2020104759


Epithelial differentiation of normal and tumor cells is orchestrated by lineage-determining transcriptional regulatory networks that enforce cell identity. Recent research by Kalisz et al (2020) in the EMBO Journal elucidates the molecular mechanisms by which a transcriptional differentiation program governed by HNF1A and KDM6A maintains acinar differentiation and the epithelial identity of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Loss of function of either transcriptional regulator induces tumor progression to a poorly differentiated and highly aggressive PDAC subtype with a squamous transcriptome and poor prognosis.