PYK2 Is Involved in Premalignant Acinar Cell Reprogramming and Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma Maintenance by Phosphorylating β-CateninY654

Chenxi Gao, Guangming Chen, Dennis Han Zhang, Judy Zhang, Shih Fan Kuan, Wenhuo Hu, Farzad Esni, Xuan Gao, Jun Lin Guan, Edward Chu, Jing Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Identification and validation of new functionally relevant and pharmacologically actionable targets for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) remains a great challenge. Premalignant acinar cell reprogramming (acinar-to-ductal metaplasia [ADM]) is a precursor of pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) lesions that can progress to PDAC. This study investigated the role of proline-rich tyrosine kinase 2 (PYK2) in mutant Kras-induced and pancreatitis-associated ADM and PanIN formation, as well as in PDAC maintenance. Methods: Genetically engineered mouse models of mutant Kras (glycine 12 to aspartic acid) and Pyk2 deletion were used for investigating the role of PYK2 in PDAC genesis in mice. In vitro ADM assays were conducted using primary pancreatic acinar cells isolated from mice. Immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence, and a series of biochemical experiments were used to investigate upstream regulators/downstream targets of PYK2 in pancreatic carcinogenesis. PDAC cell line xenograft experiments were performed to study the role of PYK2 and its downstream target in PDAC maintenance. Results: PYK2 was increased substantially in ADM lesions induced by mutant Kras or inflammatory injury. Pyk2 deletion remarkably suppressed ADM and PanIN formation in a mutant Kras-driven and pancreatitis-associated PDAC model, whereas PYK2 knockdown substantially inhibited PDAC cell growth in vitro and in nude mice. This study uncovered a novel yes-associated protein 1/transcriptional co-activator with PDZ binding motif/signal transducer and activator of transcription 3/PYK2/β-catenin regulation axis in PDAC. Our results suggest that PYK2 contributes to PDAC genesis and maintenance by activating the Wnt/β-catenin pathway through directly phosphorylating β-cateninY654. Conclusions: The current study uncovers PYK2 as a novel downstream effector of mutant KRAS signaling, a previously unrecognized mediator of pancreatitis-induced ADM and a novel intervention target for PDAC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-578
Number of pages18
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Acinar-to-Ductal Metaplasia
  • Inflammation
  • KRAS
  • Wnt/β-Catenin Signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


Dive into the research topics of 'PYK2 Is Involved in Premalignant Acinar Cell Reprogramming and Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma Maintenance by Phosphorylating β-CateninY654'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this