Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Malignant Tumor Epigenetics and Gene Regulation, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, 510120, China; Department of Medical Oncology, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, 510120, China. Electronic address: [Email]
Macrophage-targeted therapy offers new options for intractable pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which has a low 5-year survival rate. However, the factors regulating the biological function and phenotype of macrophages in PDAC are incompletely understood. Here, we found that CD51 was positively associated with the poor prognosis of PDAC patients and was highly expressed on macrophages but not on pancreatic cancer cells. Subsequently, we found that CD51 was a marker of macrophages, which promoted the stemness of pancreatic cancer cells. Furthermore, knockdown of CD51 in macrophages drove macrophages toward an M1-like phenotype. Mechanistically, macrophage-expressed CD51 contributed to the acquisition of stemness traits of pancreatic cancer cells by regulating the TGF-β1/smad2/3 pathway. Our data demonstrate the central role played by macrophage-expressed CD51 in the acquisition of stemness traits of pancreatic cancer cells through the paracrine induction of TGF-β1. We first show the connection between the CD51/TGF-β1/smad2/3 axis and PDAC cancer stem cell properties and then indicate that CD51-targeted therapy is a new therapeutic modality for PDAC.