Pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN), the most common premalignant lesion of the pancreas, is a histologically well-defined precursor to invasive pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the progression of PanINs have not been fully elucidated. Previously, we demonstrated that the expression of collapsin response mediator protein 4 (CRMP4) in PDAC was associated with poor prognosis. The expression of CRMP4 was also augmented in a pancreatitis mouse model. However, the role of CRMP4 in the progression of PanIN lesions remains uncertain. In the present study, we examined the relationship between CRMP4 expression and progression of PanIN lesions using genetically engineered mouse models. PanIN lesions were induced by peritoneal injection of the cholecystokinin analog caerulein in LSL-KRAS; Pdx1-Cre (KC-Crmp4 wild-type, WT) mice and LSL-KRAS; Pdx1-Cre; Crmp4 (KC-Crmp4 knockout, KO) mice. We analyzed pancreatic tissue sections from these mice and evaluated PanIN grade by hematoxylin and eosin staining. CRMP4 expression was examined and the cellular components assessed by immunohistochemistry using antibodies against CRMP4, CD3, and α-smooth muscle actin (SMA). The incidence of high-grade PanIN in KC-Crmp4 WT mice was higher than that in KC-Crmp4 KO animals. CRMP4 was expressed not only in epithelial cells but also in αSMA-positive cells in stromal areas of PanIN lesions. The CRMP4 expression in stromal areas correlated with PanIN grade in WT mice. These results suggested that the expression of CRMP4 in stromal cells may underlie the incidence or progression of PanIN.
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