Binding of pro-prion to filamin A disrupts cytoskeleton and correlates with poor prognosis in pancreatic cancer

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The cellular prion protein (PrP) is a highly conserved, widely expressed, glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored (GPI-anchored) cell surface glycoprotein. Since its discovery, most studies on PrP have focused on its role in neurodegenerative prion diseases, whereas its function outside the nervous system remains unclear. Here, we report that human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cell lines expressed PrP. However, the PrP was neither glycosylated nor GPI-anchored, existing as pro-PrP and retaining its GPI anchor peptide signal sequence (GPI-PSS). We also showed that the PrP GPI-PSS has a filamin A–binding (FLNa-binding) motif and interacted with FLNa, an actin-associated protein that integrates cell mechanics and signaling. Binding of pro-PrP to FLNa disrupted cytoskeletal organization. Inhibition of PrP expression by shRNA in the PDAC cell lines altered the cytoskeleton and expression of multiple signaling proteins; it also reduced cellular proliferation and invasiveness in vitro as well as tumor growth in vivo. A subgroup of human patients with pancreatic cancer was found to have tumors that expressed pro-PrP. Most importantly, PrP expression in tumors correlated with a marked decrease in patient survival. We propose that binding of pro-PrP to FLNa perturbs FLNa function, thus contributing to the aggressiveness of PDAC. Prevention of this interaction could provide an attractive target for therapeutic intervention in human PDAC.

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