Pancreatic endocrine tumours (PETs) occur sporadically or are inherited as part of the multiple endocrine neoplasia type-1 syndrome. Little is known about the molecular events leading to these tumours. Cyclin D1, a key regulator of the G1/S transition of the cell cycle, is overexpressed in a variety of human cancers as well as certain endocrine tumours. We hypothesized that similar to other endocrine tumours, cyclin D1 is overexpressed in human sporadic PETs. Cyclin D1 protein overexpression was found in 20 of 31 PETs (65%) when compared with normal pancreatic tIssue. Furthermore, Northern blot analysis suggests that cyclin D1 up-regulation occurs at the post-transcriptional level in some PETs. Because the key cell growth signalling pathways p42/p44/ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase), p38/MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase), and Akt/PKB (protein kinase B) can regulate cyclin D1 protein expression in other cell types, pancreatic endocrine tumours were analysed with phospho-specific antibodies against the active forms of these proteins to elucidate a tIssue-specific regulatory mechanism of cyclin D1 in PETs. We found frequent activation of the p38/MAPK and Akt pathways, but down-regulation of the ERK pathway, in cyclin D1 overexpressing PETs. This study demonstrates that cyclin D1 overexpression is associated with human sporadic PET tumorigenesis, and suggests that this up-regulation may occur at the post-transcriptional level. These findings will direct future studies of PETs towards cell cycle dysregulation and the identification of key growth factor pathways involved in the formation of these tumours.
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