SMAD4 (MAD homologue 4 (Drosophila)), also known as DPC4 (deleted in pancreatic cancer), is a tumour suppressor gene that encodes a central mediator of transforming growth factor-Β signalling. Germline mutations in SMAD4 are found in over 50% of patients with familial juvenile polyposis, an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by predisposition to hamartomatous polyps and gastrointestinal cancer. Dense inflammatory cell infiltrates underlay grossly normal appearing, non-polypoid colonic and gastric mucosa of patients with familial juvenile polyposis. This prominent stromal component suggests that loss of SMAD4-dependent signalling in cells within the epithelial microenvironment has an important role in the evolution of intestinal tumorigenesis in this syndrome. Here we show that selective loss of Smad4-dependent signalling in T cells leads to spontaneous epithelial cancers throughout the gastrointestinal tract in mice, whereas epithelial-specific deletion of the Smad4 gene does not. Tumours arising within the colon, rectum, duodenum, stomach and oral cavity are stroma-rich with dense plasma cell infiltrates. Smad4-/- T cells produce abundant TH2-type cytokines including interleukin (IL)-5, IL-6 and IL-13, known mediators of plasma cell and stromal expansion. The results support the concept that cancer, as an outcome, reflects the loss of the normal communication between the cellular constituents of a given organ, and indicate that Smad4-deficient T cells ultimately send the wrong message to their stromal and epithelial neighbours.
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