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Open Access Research article

Type IV collagen stimulates pancreatic cancer cell proliferation, migration, and inhibits apoptosis through an autocrine loop

Daniel Öhlund, Oskar Franklin, Erik Lundberg, Christina Lundin and Malin Sund*

Author Affiliations

Department of Surgical and Perioperative Sciences, Umeå University, SE-901 85, Umeå, Sweden

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BMC Cancer 2013, 13:154  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-154

Published: 26 March 2013



Pancreatic cancer shows a highly aggressive and infiltrative growth pattern and is characterized by an abundant tumor stroma known to interact with the cancer cells, and to influence tumor growth and drug resistance. Cancer cells actively take part in the production of extracellular matrix proteins, which then become deposited into the tumor stroma. Type IV collagen, an important component of the basement membrane, is highly expressed by pancreatic cancer cells both in vivo and in vitro. In this study, the cellular effects of type IV collagen produced by the cancer cells were characterized.


The expression of type IV collagen and its integrin receptors were examined in vivo in human pancreatic cancer tissue. The cellular effects of type IV collagen were studied in pancreatic cancer cell lines by reducing type IV collagen expression through RNA interference and by functional receptor blocking of integrins and their binding-sites on the type IV collagen molecule.


We show that type IV collagen is expressed close to the cancer cells in vivo, forming basement membrane like structures on the cancer cell surface that colocalize with the integrin receptors. Furthermore, the interaction between type IV collagen produced by the cancer cell, and integrins on the surface of the cancer cells, are important for continuous cancer cell growth, maintenance of a migratory phenotype, and for avoiding apoptosis.


We show that type IV collagen provides essential cell survival signals to the pancreatic cancer cells through an autocrine loop.

Type IV collagen; Pancreatic cancer; Basement membrane; Integrin receptors; Autocrine loop