Transcriptional dissection of pancreatic tumors engrafted in mice
Background: Engraftment of primary pancreas ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC) in mice to generate patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models is a promising platform for biological and therapeutic studies in this disease. However, these models are still incompletely characterized. Here, we measured the impact of the murine tumor environment on the gene expression of the engrafted human tumoral cells. Methods: We have analyzed gene expression profiles from 35 new PDX models and compared them with previously published microarray data of 18 PDX models, 53 primary tumors and 41 cell lines from PDAC. The results obtained in the PDAC system were further compared with public available microarray data from 42 PDX models, 108 primary tumors and 32 cell lines from hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). We developed a robust analysis protocol to explore the gene expression space. In addition, we completed the analysis with a functional characterization of PDX models, including if changes were caused by murine environment or by serial passing. Results: Our results showed that PDX models derived from PDAC, or HCC, were clearly different to the cell lines derived from the same cancer tissues. Indeed, PDAC- and HCC-derived cell lines are indistinguishable from each other based on their gene expression profiles. In contrast, the transcriptomes of PDAC and HCC PDX models can be separated into two different groups that share some partial similarity with their corresponding original primary tumors. Our results point to the lack of human stromal involvement in PDXs as a major factor contributing to their differences from the original primary tumors. The main functional differences between pancreatic PDX models and human PDAC are the lower expression of genes involved in pathways related to extracellular matrix and hemostasis and the up- regulation of cell cycle genes. Importantly, most of these differences are detected in the first passages after the tumor engraftment.Conclusions: Our results suggest that PDX models of PDAC and HCC retain, to some extent, a gene expression memory of the original primary tumors, while this pattern is not detected in conventional cancer cell lines. Expression changes in PDXs are mainly related to pathways reflecting the lack of human infiltrating cells and the adaptation to a new environment. We also provide evidence of the stability of gene expression patterns over subsequent passages, indicating early phases of the adaptation process. © 2014 Martinez-Garcia et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
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