Regulation of Epithelial Plasticity Determines Metastatic Organotropism in Pancreatic Cancer

Reichert, M., Bakir, B., Moreira, L., Pitarresi, J. R., Feldmann, K., Simon, L., Suzuki, K., Maddipati, R., Rhim, A. D., Schlitter, A. M., Kriegsmann, M., Weichert, W., Wirth, M., Schuck, K., Schneider, G., Saur, D., Reynolds, A. B., Klein-Szanto, A. J., Pehlivanoglu, B., Memis, B., Adsay, N. V., and Rustgi, A. K. (2018). Dev Cell 45, 696-711 e698. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2018.05.025


The regulation of metastatic organotropism in pancreatic ductal a denocarcinoma (PDAC) remains poorly understood. We demonstrate, using multiple mouse models, that liver and lung metastatic organotropism is dependent upon p120catenin (p120ctn)-mediated epithelial identity. Mono-allelic p120ctn loss accelerates KrasG12D-driven pancreatic cancer formation and liver metastasis. Importantly, one p120ctn allele is sufficient for E-CADHERIN-mediated cell adhesion. By contrast, cells with bi-allelic p120ctn loss demonstrate marked lung organotropism; however, rescue with p120ctn isoform 1A restores liver metastasis. In a p120ctn-independent PDAC model, mosaic loss of E-CADHERIN expression reveals selective pressure for E-CADHERIN-positive liver metastasis and E-CADHERIN-negative lung metastasis. Furthermore, human PDAC and liver metastases support the premise that liver metastases exhibit predominantly epithelial characteristics. RNA-seq demonstrates differential induction of pathways associated with metastasis and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in p120ctn-deficient versus p120ctn-wild-type cells. Taken together, P120CTN and E-CADHERIN mediated epithelial plasticity is an addition to the conceptual framework underlying metastatic organotropism in pancreatic cancer.