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Inhibition of MUC4 expression suppresses pancreatic tumor cell growth and metastasis.

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Cancer Res.. 2004 Jan 64 (2).

The MUC4 mucin is a high molecular weight membrane-bound glycoprotein. It is aberrantly expressed in pancreatic tumors and tumor cell lines with no detectable expression in the normal pancreas. A progressive increase of MUC4 expression has also been observed in pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia, suggesting its association with disease development. Here, we investigated the consequences of silencing MUC4 expression in an aggressive and highly metastatic pancreatic tumor cell line CD18/HPAF that expresses high levels of MUC4. The expression of MUC4 was down-regulated by the stable integration of a plasmid-construct expressing antisense-MUC4 RNA. A decrease in MUC4 expression, confirmed by Western blot and immunofluorescence analyses, resulted in diminished growth and clonogenic ability of antisense-MUC4-transfected (EIAS19) cells compared with parental, empty vector (ZEO) and sense transfected (ES6) control cells. In addition, EIAS19 cells displayed a significant decrease in tumor growth and metastatic properties when transplanted orthotopically into the immunodeficient mice. In vitro biological assays for motility, adhesion, and aggregation demonstrated a 3-fold decrease in motility of EIAS19 cells compared with control cells, whereas these cells adhered more and showed an increase in cellular aggregation. Interestingly, MUC4 down-regulation also correlated with the reduced expression of its putative interacting partner, HER2/neu, in antisense-MUC4-transfected cells. In conclusion, the present work demonstrates, for the first time, a direct association of the MUC4 mucin with the metastatic pancreatic cancer phenotype and provides experimental evidence for a functional role of MUC4 in altered growth and behavioral properties of the tumor cell.

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