A Comprehensive Molecular Characterization of the Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor Cell Lines BON-1 and QGP-1

Experimental models of neuroendocrine tumor disease are scarce, with only a few existing neuroendocrine tumor cell lines of pancreatic origin (panNET). Their molecular characterization has so far focused on the neuroendocrine phenotype and cancer-related mutations, while a transcription-based assessment of their developmental origin and malignant potential is lacking. In this study, we performed immunoblotting and qPCR analysis of neuroendocrine, epithelial, developmental endocrine-related genes as well as next-generation sequencing (NGS) analysis of microRNAs (miRs) on three panNET cell lines, BON-1, QGP-1, and NT-3. All three lines displayed a neuroendocrine and epithelial phenotype; however, while insulinoma-derived NT-3 cells preferentially expressed markers of mature functional pancreatic β-cells (i.e., INS, MAFA), both BON-1 and QGP-1 displayed high expression of genes associated with immature or non-functional β/δ-cells genes (i.e., NEUROG3), or pancreatic endocrine progenitors (i.e., FOXA2). NGS-based identification of miRs in BON-1 and QGP-1 cells revealed the presence of all six members of the miR-17-92 cluster, which have been implicated in b-cell function and differentiation, but also have roles in cancer being both oncogenic or tumor suppressive. Notably, both BON-1 and QGP-1 cells expressed several miRs known to be negatively associated with epithelial-mesenchymal transition, invasion or metastasis. Moreover, both cell lines failed to exhibit migratory activity in vitro. Taken together, NT-3 cells resemble mature functional β-cells, while both BON-1 and QGP-1 are more similar to immature/non-functional pancreatic β/δ-cells or pancreatic endocrine progenitors. Based on the recent identification of three transcriptional subtypes in panNETs, NT-3 cells resemble the "islet/insulinoma tumors" (IT) subtype, while BON-1 and QGP-1 cells were tentatively classified as "metastasis-like/primary" (MLP). Our results provide a comprehensive characterization of three panNET cell lines and demonstrate their relevance as neuroendocrine tumor models.


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