Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is associated with a high incidence of hepatic metastases, as well as occasional pulmonary metastases. To delineate the potential role of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in PDAC metastasis, human PDAC cells were injected into the spleen of mice. The characteristics and expression of markers associated with CSC and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of metastatic cells that developed in the liver and lung were then compared with parental cells. The metastatic cells were polygonal, and larger than parental cells. Metastatic cells also exhibited decreased proliferation and increased adhesion to extracellular matrices, as well as enhanced migration and invasion in vitro and increased metastatic capacity in vivo. The CSC markers ALDH1A1, ABCG2, and nestin were expressed at high levels in metastatic cells and exhibited changes consistent with EMT (eg, decreased E-cadherin expression). Moreover, metastatic cells readily formed spheres in culture and exhibited an increased side population by flow analysis. Nestin and ABCG2 were also expressed at high levels in metastatic lesions from PDAC patients, and silencing nestin with shRNA in PDAC cells derived from lung metastases resulted in a marked decrease in the capacity of the cells to form spheres and to yield pulmonary or hepatic metastases. Thus, the metastatic potential of human PDAC cells correlates with CSCs and with EMT characteristics and is dependent on nestin expression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine