Mesenchymal Lineage Heterogeneity Underlies Nonredundant Functions of Pancreatic Cancer–Associated Fibroblasts

Erin J. Helms, Mark W. Berry, R. Crystal Chaw, Christopher C. Dufort, Duanchen Sun, M. Kathrina Onate, Chet Oon, Sohinee Bhattacharyya, Hannah Sanford-Crane, Wesley Horton, Jennifer M. Finan, Ariana Sattler, Rosemary Makar, David W. Dawson, Zheng Xia, Sunil R. Hingorani, Mara H. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Cancer-associated fibroblast (CAF) heterogeneity is increasingly appreciated, but the origins and functions of distinct CAF subtypes remain poorly understood. The abundant and transcriptionally diverse CAF population in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is thought to arise from a common cell of origin, pancreatic stellate cells (PSC), with diversification resulting from cytokine and growth factor gradients within the tumor microenvironment. Here we analyzed the differentiation and function of PSCs during tumor progression in vivo. Contrary to expectations, we found that PSCs give rise to a numerically minor subset of PDAC CAFs. Targeted ablation of PSC-derived CAFs within their host tissue revealed nonredundant functions for this defined CAF population in shaping the PDAC microenvironment, including production of specific extracellular matrix components and tissue stiffness regulation. Together, these findings link stromal evolution from distinct cells of origin to transcriptional heterogeneity among PDAC CAFs and demonstrate unique functions for CAFs of a defined cellular origin SIGNIFICANCE: By tracking and ablating a specific CAF population, we fin d tha t a numericall y minor CAF subtype from a defined cell of origin plays unique roles in establishing the pancreatic tumor micro-environment. Together with prior studies, this work suggests that mesenchymal lineage heterogeneity and signaling gradients diversify PDAC CAFs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)484-501
Number of pages18
JournalCancer discovery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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