ZIP4 promotes pancreatic cancer progression by repressing ZO-1 and claudin-1 through a ZEB1-dependent transcriptional mechanism

Mingyang Liu, Jingxuan Yang, Yuqing Zhang, Zhijun Zhou, Xiaobo Cui, Liyang Zhang, Kar Ming Fung, Wei Zheng, Felicia D. Allard, Eric U. Yee, Kai Ding, Huanwen Wu, Zhiyong Liang, Lei Zheng, Martin E. Fernandez-Zapico, Yi Ping Li, Michael S. Bronze, Katherine T. Morris, Russell G. Postier, Courtney W. HouchenJing Yang, Min Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Purpose: ZIP4 is overexpressed in human pancreatic cancer and promotes tumor growth. However, little is known about the role of ZIP4 in advanced stages of this dismal neoplasm. Our goal is to study the underlying mechanism and define a novel signaling pathway controlled by ZIP4-modulating pancreatic tumor metastasis. Experimental Design: The expression of ZIP4, ZO-1, claudin-1, and ZEB1 in human pancreatic cancer tissues, genetically engineered mouse model, xenograft tumor model, and pancreatic cancer cell lines were examined, and the correlations between ZIP4 and those markers were also analyzed. Functional analysis of ZO-1, claudin-1, and ZEB1 was investigated in pancreatic cancer cell lines and orthotopic xenografts. Results: Genetic inactivation of ZIP4 inhibited migration and invasion in pancreatic cancer and increased the expression of ZO-1 and claudin-1. Conversely, overexpression of ZIP4 promoted migration and invasion and increased the expression of ZEB1 and downregulation of the aforementioned epithelial genes. ZIP4 downregulation of ZO-1 and claudin-1 requires the transcriptional repressor ZEB1. Further analysis demonstrated that ZIP4-mediated repression of ZO-1 and claudin-1 leads to upregulation of their targets FAK and Paxillin. Silencing of ZIP4 caused reduced phosphorylation of FAK and Paxillin, which was rescued by simultaneous blocking of ZO-1 or claudin-1. Clinically, we demonstrated that ZIP4 positively correlates with the levels of ZEB1 and inversely associates with the expression of ZO-1 and claudin-1. Conclusions: These findings suggest a novel pathway activated by ZIP4-controlling pancreatic cancer invasiveness and metastasis, which could serve as a new therapeutic target for this devastating disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3186-3196
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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