Journal article

Deficiency for the Cysteine Protease Cathepsin L Impairs Myc-Induced Tumorigenesis in a Mouse Model of Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Cancer

Motivated by the recent implication of cysteine protease cathepsin L as a potential target for anti-cancer drug development, we used a conditional MycER(TAM); Bcl-x(L) model of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumorigenesis (PNET) to assess the role of cathepsin L in Myc-induced tumor progression. By employing a cysteine cathepsin activity probe in vivo and in vitro, we first established that cathepsin activity increases during the initial stages of MycER(TAM); Bcl-x(L) tumor development. Among the cathepsin family members investigated, only cathepsin L was predominately produced by beta-tumor cells in neoplastic pancreata and, consistent with this, cathepsin L mRNA expression was rapidly upregulated following Myc activation in the beta cell compartment. By contrast, cathepsins B, S and C were highly enriched in tumor-infiltrating leukocytes. Genetic deletion of cathepsin L had no discernible effect on the initiation of neoplastic growth or concordant angiogenesis. However, the tumors that developed in the cathepsin L-deficient background were markedly reduced in size relative to their typical wild-type counterparts, indicative of a role for cathepsin L in enabling expansive tumor growth. Thus, genetic blockade of cathepsin L activity is inferred to retard Myc-driven tumor growth, encouraging the potential utility of pharmacological inhibitors of cysteine cathepsins in treating late stage tumors.

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