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Pancreatic cancer (PC), one of the most aggressive and life-threatening human malignancies, is known for its resistance to cytotoxic therapies. This is increasingly ascribed to the subpopulation of undifferentiated cells, known as pancreatic cancer stem cells (PCSCs), which display greater evolutionary fitness than other tumor cells to evade the cytotoxic effects of chemotherapy. PCSCs are crucial for tumor relapse as they possess 'stem cell-like' features that are characterized by self-renewal and differentiation. However, the molecular mechanisms that maintain the unique characteristics of PCSCs are poorly understood. Here, we identify the histone methyltransferase KMT2A as a physical binding partner of an RNA polymerase-associated PHF5A-PHF14-HMG20A-RAI1 protein subcomplex and an epigenetic regulator of PCSC properties and functions. Targeting the protein subcomplex in PCSCs with a KMT2A-WDR5 inhibitor attenuates their self-renewal capacity, cell viability, and in vivo tumorigenicity.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Humans, Pancreas, Neoplastic Stem Cells, Pancreatic Neoplasms, Research Personnel, Histone Methyltransferases, High Mobility Group Proteins, Trans-Activators, RNA-Binding Proteins, Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins