The role that transforming growth factor-α (TGF-α) has in chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer has not been fully elucidated. We evaluated the effects of TGF-α on the human pancreatic stellate cell (PSC) line RLT-PSC and primary human PSCs, and the expression levels of TGF-α and metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) in human chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer tissues. TGF-α stimulated the proliferation and migration of PSCs. Although the mRNA expression levels of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 and α1(I) collagen were unchanged, the mRNA expression levels of MMP-1 increased concomitant with increases in MMP-1 protein levels and collagenase activity. TGF-α-stimulated migration of RLT-PSC cells was partially blocked by tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 protein and MMP-1 small interfering RNA. MMP-1 was also observed to stimulate the migration of PSCs. TGF-α-induced MMP-1 expression was completely blocked by gefitinib in PSCs. The Ras-ERK and PI3/Akt pathways appear to be involved in the activation of MMP-1 in PSCs. Immunohistochemical analyses showed that MMP-1 expression was significantly increased in the pancreatic interstitial tissues in case of chronic pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer compared with those in case of normal pancreas. In conclusion, TGF-α increased proliferation and migration of PSCs. TGF-α-induced migration of cells may be partly due to upregulation of MMP-1. TGF-α and MMP-1 upregulation may contribute to the pathogenesis of chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
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