BACKGROUND: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is among the most aggressive human malignancies with an overall 5-year survival rate of <5%. Despite significant advances in treatment of the disease during the past decade, the median survival rate ( approximately 6 months) has hardly improved, warranting the need to identify novel targets for therapeutic approaches.
METHODS: Quantitative real time PCR, western blot analyses and immunohistochemical staining of tissue microarrays were used to analyse the expression of TTK gene in primary PDAC tissues and cell lines. To inhibit TTK kinase expression in a variety of pancreatic cancer cell lines, RNA interference was used. Functional roles of this kinase in the context of PDAC were studied using cell proliferation, viability and anchorage-independent growth assays. Western blotting, fluorescence-activated cell sorting analyses and fluorescence microscopy were used to gain mechanistic insight into the functional effects.
CONCLUSIONS: We show that the dual specificity kinase TTK (also known as Mps1), is strongly overexpressed in human PDAC. Functionally, cell proliferation was significantly attenuated following TTK knockdown, whereas apoptosis and necrosis rates were significantly increased. In addition, anchorage-independent growth, a hallmark of malignant transformation and metastatic potential, was strongly impaired in the absence of TTK gene function. Interestingly, immortalised normal pancreatic hTERT-HPNE cells were not affected by loss of TTK function. Mechanistically, these effects in cancer cells were associated with increased formation of micronuclei, suggesting that loss of TTK function in pancreatic cancer cells results in chromosomal instability and mitotic catastrophe. Taken together, our data show that TTK function is critical for growth and proliferation of pancreatic cancer cells, thus establishing this kinase as an interesting new target for novel therapeutic approaches in combating this malignancy.