TGFβ and Hippo Signaling Pathways Coordinate to Promote Acinar to Ductal Metaplasia in Human Pancreas

Michael Nipper, Yi Xu, Jun Liu, Xue Yin, Zhijie Liu, Zhengqing Ye, Jianmin Zhang, Yidong Chen, Pei Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background & Aims: Acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM) serves as a precursor event in the development of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) upon constitutive environmental and genetical stress. While the role of ADM in PDAC progression has been established, the molecular mechanisms underlying human ADM remain elusive. We previously demonstrated the induction of ADM in human acinar cells through the transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) signaling pathway. We aim to investigate the interaction between TGFβ and Hippo pathways in mediating ADM. Methods: RNA-sequencing was conducted on sorted normal primary human acinar, ductal, and AD (acinar cells that have undergone ADM) cells. ATAC-seq analysis was utilized to reveal the chromatin accessibility in these three cell types. ChIP-Seq of YAP1, SMAD4, and H3K27ac was performed to identify the gene targets of YAP1 and SMAD4. The role of YAP1/TAZ in ADM-driven cell proliferation, as well as in oncogenic KRAS driven proliferation, was assessed using sphere formation assay. Results: AD cells have a unique transcription profile, with upregulated genes in open chromatin states in acinar cells. YAP1 and SMAD4 co-occupy the loci of ADM-related genes, including PROM1, HES1, and MMP7, co-regulating biological functions such as cell adhesion, cell migration, and inflammation. Overexpression of YAP1/TAZ promoted acinar cell proliferation but still required the TGFβ pathway. YAP1/TAZ were also crucial for TGFβ-induced sphere formation and were necessary for KRAS-induced proliferation. Conclusions: Our study reveals the intricate transition between acinar and AD states in human pancreatic tissues. It unveils the complex interaction between the Hippo and TGF-β pathways during ADM, highlighting the pivotal role of YAP1/TAZ and SMAD4 in PDAC initiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number186
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • ATAC-seq
  • ChIP-Seq
  • Hippo pathway
  • TGFβ signaling
  • acinar-to-ductal metaplasia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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