Mesothelin (MSLN) and cancer antigen125/mucin 16 (CA125/MUC16) are potential biomarkers for pancreatic cancer (PC) that are co-overexpressed at the invading edges of PC tissues, and their expression correlates with poor survival rates. However, the role of MSLN-MUC16 molecular interaction in PC cell motility and invasion has yet to be elucidated. Using sophisticated bioengineering and molecular biology tools, we report that the binding of MSLN to MUC16 markedly enhances PC cell motility and invasion via the selective induction of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-7. MSLN-mediated MMP-7 upregulation in MUC16-expressing PC cells occurs via a p38 MAPK-dependent pathway. Depletion of MMP-7 or inhibition of p38 activity abolishes MSLN-mediated PC motility and invasion. These findings provide a novel perspective on the enhanced invasive potential associated with MSLN and MUC16 co-overexpression, and the mechanism underlying MMP-7 activation in PC invasion and metastasis.
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