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Cellular heterogeneity during mouse pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma progression at single-cell resolution

By Abdel Nasser Hosein, Huocong Huang, Zhaoning Wang, Kamalpreet Parmar, Wenting Du, Jonathan Huang, Anirban Maitra, Eric Olson, Udit Verma, Rolf A Brekken

Posted 04 Feb 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/539874 (published DOI: 10.1172/jci.insight.129212)

Background & Aims: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is a major cause of cancer-related death with limited therapeutic options available. This highlights the need for improved understanding of the biology of PDA progression. The progression of PDA is a highly complex and dynamic process featuring changes in cancer cells and stromal cells; however, a comprehensive characterization of PDA cancer cell and stromal cell heterogeneity during disease progression is lacking. In this study, we aimed to profile cell populations and understand their phenotypic changes during PDA progression. Methods: We employed single-cell RNA sequencing technology to agnostically profile cell heterogeneity during different stages of PDA progression in genetically engineered mouse models. Results: Our data indicate that an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition of cancer cells accompanies tumor progression. We also found distinct populations of macrophages with increasing inflammatory features during PDA progression. In addition, we noted the existence of three distinct molecular subtypes of fibroblasts in the normal mouse pancreas, which ultimately gave rise to two distinct populations of fibroblasts in advanced PDA, supporting recent reports on intratumoral fibroblast heterogeneity. Our data also suggest that cancer cells and fibroblasts are dynamically regulated by epigenetic mechanisms. Conclusion: This study systematically outlines the landscape of cellular heterogeneity during the progression of PDA. It strongly improves our understanding of the PDA biology and has the potential to aid in the development of therapeutic strategies against specific cell populations of the disease.

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