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Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Clinical and Translational Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Azeddine Atfi


The transcription factor Prdm16 functions as a potent suppressor of transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-b) signaling, whose inactivation is deemed essential to the progression of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Using the KrasG12D-based mouse model of human PDAC, we surprisingly found that ablating Prdm16 did not block but instead accelerated PDAC formation and progression, suggesting that Prdm16 might function as a tumor suppressor in this malignancy. Subsequent genetic experiments showed that ablating Prdm16 along with Smad4 resulted in a shift from a well-differentiated and confined neoplasm to a highly aggressive and metastatic disease, which was associated with a striking deviation in the trajectory of the premalignant lesions. Mechanistically, we found that Smad4 interacted with and recruited Prdm16 to repress its own expression, therefore pinpointing a model in which Prdm16 functions downstream of Smad4 to constrain the PDAC malignant phenotype. Collectively, these findings unveil an unprecedented antagonistic interaction between the tumor suppressors Smad4 and Prdm16 that functions to restrict PDAC progression and metastasis.


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