Targeting developmental regulators of zebrafish exocrine pancreas as a therapeutic approach in human pancreatic cancer

Nelson S. Yee, Weiqiang Zhou, Stephen G. Chun, I. Chau Liang, Rosemary K. Yee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Histone deacetylases (HDACs) and RNA polymerase III (POLR3) play vital roles in fundamental cellular processes, and deregulation of these enzymes has been implicated in malignant transformation. Hdacs and Polr3 are required for exocrine pancreatic epithelial proliferation during morphogenesis in zebrafish. We aim to test the hypothesis that Hdacs and Polr3 cooperatively control exocrine pancreatic growth, and combined inhibition of HDACs and POLR3 produces enhanced growth suppression in pancreatic cancer. In zebrafish larvae, combination of a Hdac inhibitor (Trichostatin A) and an inhibitor of Polr3 (ML-60218) synergistically prohibited the expansion of exocrine pancreas. In human pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells, combination of the HDAC inhibitor suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA) and ML-60218 produced augmented suppression of colony formation and proliferation, and induction of cell cycle arrest and apoptotic cell death. The enhanced cytotoxicity was associated with supra-additive upregulation of the pro-apoptotic regulator BAX and the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21CDKN1A. tRNAs have been shown to have proproliferative and anti-apoptotic roles, and SAHA-stimulated expression of tRNAs was reversed by ML-60218. These findings demonstrate that chemically targeting developmental regulators of exocrine pancreas can be translated into an approach with potential impact on therapeutic response in pancreatic cancer, and suggest that counteracting the pro-malignant side effect of HDAC inhibitors can enhance their anti-tumor activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-307
Number of pages13
JournalBiology Open
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 15 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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