Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and the unfolded protein response (UPR) signaling have been shown to be dysregulated in multiple cancer types. Glucose regulatory protein 78 (GRP78), the master regulator of the UPR, plays a role in proliferation, invasion, and metastasis in cancer. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) make up a crucial component of the tumor heterogeneity in pancreatic cancer, as well as other cancers. “Stemness” in pancreatic cancer defines a population of cells within the tumor that have increased therapeutic resistance as well as survival advantage. In the current study, we investigated how GRP78 was responsible for maintaining “stemness” in pancreatic cancer thereby contributing to its aggressive biology. We determined that GRP78 downregulation decreased clonogenicity and self-renewal properties in pancreatic cancer cell lines in vitro. In vivo studies resulted in delayed tumor initiation frequency, as well as smaller tumor volume in the shGRP78 groups. Additionally, downregulation of GRP78 resulted in dysregulated fatty acid metabolism in pancreatic tumors as well as the cells. Further, our results showed that shGRP78 dysregulates multiple transcriptomic and proteomic pathways that involve DNA damage, oxidative stress, and cell death, that were reversed upon treatment with a ROS inhibitor, N-acetylcysteine. This study thus demonstrates for the first time that the heightened UPR in pancreatic cancer may be responsible for maintenance of the “stemness” properties in these cells that are attributed to aggressive properties like chemoresistance and metastasis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology
- Cancer Research