Alternative polyadenylation of ZEB1 promotes its translation during genotoxic stress in pancreatic cancer cells

Ilaria Passacantilli, Valentina Panzeri, Pamela Bielli, Donatella Farini, Emanuela Pilozzi, Gianfranco Delle Fave, Gabriele Capurso, Claudio Sette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is characterized by extremely poor prognosis. The standard chemotherapeutic drug, gemcitabine, does not offer significant improvements for PDAC management due to the rapid acquisition of drug resistance by patients. Recent evidence indicates that epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of PDAC cells is strictly associated to early metastasization and resistance to chemotherapy. However, it is not exactly clear how EMT is related to drug resistance or how chemotherapy influences EMT. Herein, we found that ZEB1 is the only EMT-related transcription factor that clearly segregates mesenchymal and epithelial PDAC cell lines. Gemcitabine treatment caused upregulation of ZEB1 protein through posttranscriptional mechanisms in mesenchymal PDAC cells within a context of global inhibition of protein synthesis. The increase in ZEB1 protein correlates with alternative polyadenylation of the transcript, leading to shortening of the 3' untranslated region (UTR) and deletion of binding sites for repressive microRNAs. Polysome profiling indicated that shorter ZEB1 transcripts are specifically retained on the polysomes of PDAC cells during genotoxic stress, while most mRNAs, including longer ZEB1 transcripts, are depleted. Thus, our findings uncover a novel layer of ZEB1 regulation through 3'-end shortening of its transcript and selective association with polysomes under genotoxic stress, strongly suggesting that PDAC cells rely on upregulation of ZEB1 protein expression to withstand hostile environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3168
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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