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Inactivation of the Euchromatic Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase 2 Pathway in Pancreatic Epithelial Cells Antagonizes Cancer Initiation and Pancreatitis-Associated Promotion by Altering Growth and Immune Gene Expression Networks. Front Cell Dev Biol 2021;9:681153



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Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85116952280   1 Citation


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an aggressive, painful disease with a 5-year survival rate of only 9%. Recent evidence indicates that distinct epigenomic landscapes underlie PDAC progression, identifying the H3K9me pathway as important to its pathobiology. Here, we delineate the role of Euchromatic Histone-lysine N-Methyltransferase 2 (EHMT2), the enzyme that generates H3K9me, as a downstream effector of oncogenic KRAS during PDAC initiation and pancreatitis-associated promotion. EHMT2 inactivation in pancreatic cells reduces H3K9me2 and antagonizes Kras G12D -mediated acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM) and Pancreatic Intraepithelial Neoplasia (PanIN) formation in both the Pdx1-Cre and P48 Cre/+ Kras G12D mouse models. Ex vivo acinar explants also show impaired EGFR-KRAS-MAPK pathway-mediated ADM upon EHMT2 deletion. Notably, Kras G12D increases EHMT2 protein levels and EHMT2-EHMT1-WIZ complex formation. Transcriptome analysis reveals that EHMT2 inactivation upregulates a cell cycle inhibitory gene expression network that converges on the Cdkn1a/p21-Chek2 pathway. Congruently, pancreas tissue from Kras G12D animals with EHMT2 inactivation have increased P21 protein levels and enhanced senescence. Furthermore, loss of EHMT2 reduces inflammatory cell infiltration typically induced during Kras G12D -mediated initiation. The inhibitory effect on Kras G12D -induced growth is maintained in the pancreatitis-accelerated model, while simultaneously modifying immunoregulatory gene networks that also contribute to carcinogenesis. This study outlines the existence of a novel KRAS-EHMT2 pathway that is critical for mediating the growth-promoting and immunoregulatory effects of this oncogene in vivo, extending human observations to support a pathophysiological role for the H3K9me pathway in PDAC.

Author List

Urrutia G, de Assuncao TM, Mathison AJ, Salmonson A, Kerketta R, Zeighami A, Stodola TJ, Adsay V, Pehlivanoglu B, Dwinell MB, Zimmermann MT, Iovanna JL, Urrutia R, Lomberk G


Michael B. Dwinell PhD Director, Professor in the Microbiology and Immunology department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Gwen Lomberk PhD Professor in the Surgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Angela Mathison PhD Assistant Professor in the Surgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Raul A. Urrutia MD Center Director, Professor in the Surgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Michael T. Zimmermann PhD Director, Assistant Professor in the Clinical and Translational Science Institute department at Medical College of Wisconsin