p21WAF1/Cip1 limits senescence and acinar-to-ductal metaplasia formation during pancreatitis

Kamile Grabliauskaite, etc
The Journal of Pathology, 2014

Trans-differentiation of pancreatic acinar cells into ductal-like lesions, a process defined as acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM), is observed in the course of organ regeneration following pancreatitis. In addition, ADM is found in association with pre-malignant PanIN lesions and correlates with an increased risk of pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Human PDAC samples show down-regulation of p21WAF1/Cip1, a key regulator of cell cycle and cell differentiation. Here we investigated whether p21 down-regulation is implicated in controlling the early events of acinar cell trans-differentiation and ADM formation. p21-mediated regulation of ADM formation and regression was analysed in vivo during the course of cerulein-induced pancreatitis, using wild-type (WT) and p21-deficient (p21-/-) mice. Biochemical and immunohistochemical methods were used to evaluate disease progression over 2 weeks of the disease and during a recovery phase. We found that p21 was strongly up-regulated in WT acinar cells during pancreatitis, while it was absent in ADM areas, suggesting that p21 down-regulation is associated with ADM formation. In support of this hypothesis, p21-/- mice showed a significant increase in number and size of metaplasia. In addition, p21 over-expression in acinar cells reduced ADM formation in vitro, suggesting that the protein regulates the metaplastic transition in a cell-autonomous manner. p21-/- mice displayed increased expression and relocalization of ß-catenin both during pancreatitis and in the subsequent recovery phase. Finally, loss of p21 was accompanied by increased DNA damage and development of senescence. Our findings are consistent with a gate-keeper role of p21 in acinar cells to limit senescence activation and ADM formation during pancreatic regeneration. Copyright © 2014 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

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The Journal of Pathology
DOI: 10.1002/path.4440
University Hospital, Zurich