Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) displays a dismal prognosis due to late diagnosis and high chemoresistance incidence. For advanced disease stages or patients with comorbidities, treatment options are limited to gemcitabine alone or in combination with other drugs. While gemcitabine resistance has been widely attributed to the levels of one of its targets, RRM1, the molecular consequences of gemcitabine resistance in PDAC remain largely elusive. Here we sought to identify genomic, epigenomic, and transcriptomic events associated with gemcitabine resistance in PDAC and their potential clinical relevance. We found that gemcitabine-resistant cells displayed a coamplification of the adjacent RRM1 and STIM1 genes. Interestingly, RRM1, but not STIM1, was required for gemcitabine resistance, while high STIM1 levels caused an increase in cytosolic calcium concentration. Higher STIM1-dependent calcium influx led to an impaired endoplasmic reticulum stress response and a heightened nuclear factor of activated T-cell activity. Importantly, these findings were confirmed in patient and patient-derived xenograft samples. Taken together, our study uncovers previously unknown biologically relevant molecular properties of gemcitabine-resistant tumors, revealing an undescribed function of STIM1 as a rheostat directing the effects of calcium signaling and controlling epigenetic cell fate determination. It further reveals the potential benefit of targeting STIM1-controlled calcium signaling and its downstream effectors in PDAC.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research