Functional Analysis of Trefoil Factors 1 and 3 in Tumorigenesis

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The trefoil factor family of secreted proteins contains three members; trefoil factor 1 or TFF1, trefoil factor 2 or TFF2, and trefoil factor 3 or TFF3. These three proteins share a conserved 42-43 amino acid domain containing 6 cysteine residues resulting in three disulfide bonds that holds the protein in a characteristic three-loop or "trefoil structure" known as the P domain. TFF1 is primarily localized to the stomach and secreted by the gastric mucosa while TFF2 and TFF3 are primarily localized to the colon and duodenum and secreted by the goblet cells. All three of these proteins play a protective role in the gastrointestinal tract where they are normally localized and have been identified as possible tumor suppressors, however, these proteins are also upregulated in cancer within tissues where they are not normally expressed including the breast, pancreas, prostate, and liver. The mechanisms by which two of these factors, TFF1 and TFF3, promote tumorigenesis remain largely undefined. In this dissertation we will attempt to elucidate these mechanisms as well as the regulation of these two proteins in both pancreatic and prostate cancer. Many of the underlying genetic and molecular mechanisms involved in the development of both pancreatic and prostate cancer remain largely unknown and as a result, therapeutic and diagnostic tools for treating these diseases are not as effective as they could be. By deciphering the role of TFF1 and TFF3 in these cancers, they could potentially serve as new therapeutic targets or biomarkers for treating both diseases.

Chapter 2 of this dissertation will examine the functional role of TFF1 promoting tumorigenesis in pancreatic and prostate cancer. We will show that TFF1 expression is critical for the viability of both pancreatic and prostate cancer cells and that reduction of TFF1 expression in these cells results in decreased tumorigenicity when implanted in immunocompromised mice. It will also be demonstrated that TFF1's function in promoting tumorigenicity is its ability to assist tumor cells overcome the tumor suppressive barrier of senescence. Thirdly, we show that the form of senescence that TFF1 assists in allowing the cells overcome is oncogene-induced senescence (OIS). Lastly, a cell cycle array identifies the potential downstream target p21CIP, a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor and OIS marker, whose expression is induced by loss of TFF1 expression.

In Chapter 3 of this work, we examine the role of another trefoil factor family member, TFF3, and its role in promoting prostate tumorigenesis. Just as with TFF1, it appears that TFF3 3 expression is critical for prostate cancer cell viability and tumorigenicity using the same experimental techniques used in Chapter 2. Using a genetically defined model of prostate cancer, a PI3-kinase-dependent regulatory mechanism of TFF3 emerges in this prostate cancer context. Using this system we begin to see a divergence in both regulation and function of TFF1 and TFF3 in prostate cancer. Finally, a mouse model expressing TFF3 was developed to monitor the histopthological changes associated with expression of this protein. Initial characterization of this model suggests a hyperplastic phenotype coinciding with TFF3 expression in the prostate.

The two studies in this dissertation establish a role of TFF1 and TFF3 in both prostate and pancreatic tumorigenesis and demonstrate that ablation of expression of both proteins is a potent inhibitor of tumorigenesis. With this knowledge, it is possible that TFF1 and TFF3 may become a potential therapeutic target or diagnostic marker for better treatment of prostate and pancreatic cancer.






Radiloff, Daniel Ray (2009). Functional Analysis of Trefoil Factors 1 and 3 in Tumorigenesis. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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