Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Paul J.Chiao

Committee Member

Paul J.Chiao, Ph.D. Supervisory professor

Committee Member

Peng Huang, M.D. , Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kwong K. Wong, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Timothy J. McDonnell, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wei Zhang, Ph.D.


The mechanism of tumorigenesis in the immortalized human pancreatic cell lines: cell culture models of human pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the most lethal cancer in the world. The most common genetic lesions identified in PDAC include activation of K-ras (90%) and Her2 (70%), loss of p16 (95%) and p14 (40%), inactivation p53 (50-75%) and Smad4 (55%). However, the role of these signature gene alterations in PDAC is still not well understood, especially, how these genetic lesions individually or in combination contribute mechanistically to human pancreatic oncogenesis is still elusive. Moreover, a cell culture transformation model with sequential accumulation of signature genetic alterations in human pancreatic ductal cells that resembles the multiple-step human pancreatic carcinogenesis is still not established.

In the present study, through the stepwise introduction of the signature genetic alterations in PDAC into the HPV16-E6E7 immortalized human pancreatic duct epithelial (HPDE) cell line and the hTERT immortalized human pancreatic ductal HPNE cell line, we developed the novel experimental cell culture transformation models with the most frequent gene alterations in PDAC and further dissected the molecular mechanism of transformation. We demonstrated that the combination of activation of K-ras and Her2, inactivation of p16/p14 and Smad4, or K-ras mutation plus p16 inactivation, was sufficient for the tumorigenic transformation of HPDE or HPNE cells respectively. We found that these transformed cells exhibited enhanced cell proliferation, anchorage-independent growth in soft agar, and grew tumors with PDAC histopathological features in orthotopic mouse model. Molecular analysis showed that the activation of K-ras and Her2 downstream effector pathways –MAPK, RalA, FAK, together with upregulation of cyclins and c-myc were involved in the malignant transformation. We discovered that MDM2, BMP7 and Bmi-1 were overexpressed in the tumorigenic HPDE cells, and that Smad4 played important roles in regulation of BMP7 and Bmi-1 gene expression and the tumorigenic transformation of HPDE cells. IPA signaling pathway analysis of microarray data revealed that abnormal signaling pathways are involved in transformation. This study is the first complete transformation model of human pancreatic ductal cells with the most common gene alterations in PDAC. Altogether, these novel transformation models more closely recapitulate the human pancreatic carcinogenesis from the cell origin, gene lesion, and activation of specific signaling pathway and histopathological features.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, cell culture transformation model, immortalized human pancreatic ductal cell line, K-ras, Her2, p16/p14, Smad4



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