A Gopinathan, GM Denicola, KK Frese, N Cook, FA Karreth, J Mayerle, MM Lerch, T Reinheckel, DA Tuveson
OBJECTIVE: The lysosomal protease cathepsin B is upregulated in human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) and represents a potential therapeutic target. Loss of cathepsin B delays tumour progression in mouse models of islet, mammary and intestinal carcinoma and decreases invasion and metastasis. This study examines the role of cathepsin B in the initiation, progression and metastasis of PDA. METHODS: Cathepsin B germline knockout mice were crossed with animals expressing an endogenous Kras(G12D) allele in the pancreas, and mice were aged to evaluate the role of cathepsin B in pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN). A survival study was also performed with mice carrying an additional heterozygous conditional Trp53(R172H) allele. Cell lines derived from tumours were used to investigate the role of cathepsin B in vitro, and subcutaneous allografts investigated the cell autonomous and non-cell autonomous roles of cathepsin B in pancreatic cancer. RESULTS: Constitutive cathepsin B loss resulted in delayed progression of both PanIN and PDA and a significant survival advantage in mice. Cathepsin B-deficient PDA cells and PanIN showed decreased proliferation and mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase signalling. The reconstitution of deficient cells with cathepsin B reversed these findings, which correlated with decreased levels of the active forms of the related protease cathepsin L. Conversely, acute ablation of cathepsin L activated the MAP kinase cascade in PDA cells. CONCLUSIONS: These results confirm that cathepsin B plays an important cell autonomous role in the progression of PDA and suggest that the regulation of cathepsin L by cathepsin B may be a means of stimulating cell proliferation in neoplasia.