Oncogenic KRAS activates hedgehog signaling pathway in pancreatic cancer cells

Zhenyu Ji, Fang C. Mei, Jingwu Xie, Xiaodong Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

214 Scopus citations


Hedgehog (Hh) signaling is deregulated in multiple human cancers including pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA). Because KRAS mutation represents one of the earliest genetic alterations and occurs almost universally in PDA, we hypothesized that oncogenic KRAS promotes pancreatic tumorigenesis in part through activation of the Hh pathway. Here, we report that oncogenic KRAS activates hedgehog signaling in PDA cells, utilizing a downstream effector pathway mediated by RAF/MEK/MAPK but not phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT. Oncogenic KRAS transformation of human pancreatic ductal epithelial cells increases GLI transcriptional activity, an effect that is inhibited by the MEK-specific inhibitors U0126 and PD98059, but not by the PI3K-specific inhibitor wortmannin. Inactivation of KRAS activity by a small interfering RNA specific for oncogenic KRAS inhibits GLI activity and GLI1 expression in PDA cell lines with activating KRAS mutation; the MEK inhibitors U0126 and PD98059 elicit a similar response. In addition, expression of the constitutively active form of BRAFE600, but not myr-AKT, blocks the inhibitory effects of KRAS knockdown on Hh signaling. Finally, suppressing GLI activity leads to a selective attenuation of the oncogenic transformation activity of mutant KRAS-expressing PDA cells. These results demonstrate that oncogenic KRAS, through RAF/MEK/MAPK signaling, is directly involved in the activation of the hedgehog pathway in PDA cells and that collaboration between these two signaling pathways may play an important role in PDA progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14048-14055
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 11 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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