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SEMA3C Supports Pancreatic Cancer Progression by Regulating the Autophagy Process and Tumor Immune Microenvironment


To date, driver genes for pancreatic cancer treatment are difficult to pursue therapeutically. Targeting mutated KRAS, the most renowned driver gene in pancreatic cancer, is an active area of study. We discovered a gene named SEMA3C was highly expressed in pancreatic cancer cell lines and patients with a G12D mutation in KRAS. High expression of SEMA3C in patients was significantly associated with the decreased survival of pancreatic cancer patients based on the TCGA database. In pancreatic cancer cells, SEMA3C knockdown or inhibition exhibited growth/colony inhibition and cell cycle arrest. In addition, SEMA3C inhibition sensitized KRAS or MEK1/2 inhibition in pancreatic cancer cells. Overexpression of SEMA3C resulted in the induction of autophagy, whereas depletion of SEMA3C compromised induction of autophagy. SEMA3C modified the PD-L1 expression in tumor and immune cells and is correlated with the M2-like macrophage marker ARG1/CD163 expression, which could reshape the tumor microenvironment. Inhibition of SEMA3C decreased tumor formation in the xenograft model in vivo. Taken together, our data suggest that SEMA3C plays a substantial role in promoting cancer cell survival by regulating the autophagy process and impacting the tumor environment immune response. SEMA3C can be used as a novel target or marker with therapeutic or diagnostic potential in pancreatic cancer especially in tumors harboring the specific KRAS G12D mutation.

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