Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an aggressive malignancy characterized by extensive local invasion and systemic spread. In this study, we employed a three-dimensional organoid model of human pancreatic cancer to characterize the molecular alterations critical for invasion. Time-lapse microscopy was used to observe invasion in organoids from 25 surgically resected human PDAC samples in collagen I. Subsequent lentiviral modification and small-molecule inhibitors were used to investigate the molecular programs underlying invasion in PDAC organoids. When cultured in collagen I, PDAC organoids exhibited two distinct, morphologically defined invasive phenotypes, mesenchymal and collective. Each individual PDAC gave rise to organoids with a predominant phenotype, and PDAC that generated organoids with predominantly mesenchymal invasion showed a worse prognosis. Collective invasion predominated in organoids from cancers with somatic mutations in the driver gene SMAD4 (or its signaling partner TGFBR2). Reexpression of SMAD4 abrogated the collective invasion phenotype in SMAD4-mutant PDAC organoids, indicating that SMAD4 loss is required for collective invasion in PDAC organoids. Surprisingly, invasion in passaged SMAD4-mutant PDAC organoids required exogenous TGFb, suggesting that invasion in SMAD4-mutant organoids is mediated through noncanonical TGFb signaling. The Rho-like GTPases RAC1 and CDC42 acted as potential mediators of TGFb-stimulated invasion in SMAD4-mutant PDAC organoids, as inhibition of these GTPases suppressed collective invasion in our model. These data suggest that PDAC utilizes different invasion programs depending on SMAD4 status, with collective invasion uniquely present in PDAC with SMAD4 loss.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research