Background/purpose: Recent studies have suggested that protease-activated receptor-2 (PAR-2) activity correlates with cell proliferation and tumor growth, and its activation induces expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). However, no previous reports have investigated PAR-2 signaling pathways in bile duct cancer. The aim of this study was to determine whether PAR-2 activation can regulate COX-2 expression via mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) in human bile duct cancer cells. Methods: We immunohistochemically examined PAR-2 and COX-2 expression in 104 resected human specimens of extrahepatic bile duct cancer. We then determined how inhibitors of MAPKs and NF-κB signaling pathways influence COX-2 expression under PAR-2 activation in HuCCT1 and TKKK, human bile duct cancer cell lines. Results: PAR-2 and COX-2 proteins were immunohistochemically recognized in 63 and 57% of specimens and were significantly correlated. PAR-2 agonist peptide activated mRNA and protein expression of COX-2 in HuCCT1 and TKKK. Pharmacologic blockade of p44/42 or p38 MAPK significantly inhibited PAR-2-activated mRNA and protein expression of COX-2 in both cells. COX-2 protein expression was also inhibited by the blocker of NF-κB pathway in both cells. Conclusions: PAR-2 may regulate COX-2 expression in human bile duct cancer via the MAPKs and NF-κB pathways.
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