Background & Aims Bcl-xL, an anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family protein, is overexpressed in 90% of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cases. However, Bcl-xL expression in pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasias (PanINs) and its significance in PDAC carcinogenesis remain unclear. The aim of this study was to elucidate the significance of Bcl-xL expression in PanINs. Methods We investigated the expression levels of Bcl-xL in pancreas-specific KrasG12D (P-KrasG12D) mice and human PanINs and PDAC. We examined the impact of Bcl-xL expression on Kras-mutated pancreatic neoplasia using Bcl-xL–overexpressing P-KrasG12D mice and Bcl-xL–knockout P-KrasG12D mice. Results In P-KrasG12D mice, the number of PanINs increased and their grades progressed with age. In total, 55.6% of these mice developed PDAC at 12–14 months. According to the immunohistochemistry of mouse pancreas and human resected specimens, Bcl-xL expression was increased significantly in PanIN-1 compared with that in normal pancreatic ducts, and augmented further with the progression of pancreatic neoplasia in PanIN-2/3 and PDAC. Oncogene-induced senescence was observed frequently in PanIN-1, but rarely was detected in PanIN-2/3 and PDAC. Bcl-xL overexpression significantly accelerated the progression to high-grade PanINs and PDAC and reduced the survival of P-KrasG12D mice. Bcl-xL overexpression in P-KrasG12D mice suppressed oncogene-induced senescence in PanIN-1 and inhibited apoptosis in PanIN-3. Bcl-xL deficiency in P-KrasG12D mice induced cellular senescence in PanIN-2/3. Conclusions Bcl-xL expression increases with the progression from PanIN-1 to PDAC, whereas oncogene-induced senescence decreases. Bcl-xL overexpression increases PDAC incidence rates by inhibiting oncogene-induced senescence and apoptosis in PanINs. Conversely, Bcl-xL deficiency induced senescence in PanINs. Anti–Bcl-xL treatments may have the potency to suppress the progression from PanINs to PDAC.
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