Desmoplasia and an inflammatory environment are defining features of pancreatic cancer. Unclear is how pancreatic cells that undergo oncogenic transformation can cross-talk with immune cells and how this contributes to the development of pancreatic lesions. Here, we demonstrate that pancreatic acinar cells expressing mutant KRAS can expedite their transformation to a duct-like phenotype by inducing local inflammation. Specifically, we show that KRASG12D induces the expression of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), which serves as chemoattractant for macrophages. Infiltrating macrophages amplify the formation of KRASG12D -caused abnormal pancreatic structures by remodeling the extracellular matrix and providing cytokines such as TNF. Depletion of macrophages or treatment with a neutralizing antibody for ICAM-1 in mice expressing oncogenic Kras under an acinar cell–specific promoter resulted in both a decreased formation of abnormal structures and decreased progression of acinar-to-ductal metaplasia to pancreatic intraepithelial neoplastic lesions. Significance: We here show that oncogenic KRAS in pancreatic acinar cells upregulates the expression of ICAM-1 to attract macrophages. Hence, our results reveal a direct cooperative mechanism between oncogenic Kras mutations and the inflammatory environment to drive the initiation of pancreatic cancer.
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