There is evidence from both genetic and pharmacologic studies to suggest that the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme plays a causal role in the development of colorectal cancer. However, little is known about the identity or role of the eicosanoid receptor pathways activated by COX-derived prostaglandins (PG). We previously have reported that COX-2-derived prostacyclin promotes embryo implantation in the mouse uterus via activation of the nuclear hormone receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) δ. In light of the recent finding that PPARδ is a target of β-catenin transactivation, it is important to determine whether this signaling pathway is operative during the development of colorectal cancer. Analysis of PPARδ mRNA in matched normal and tumor samples revealed that expression of PPARδ, similar to COX-2, is up-regulated in colorectal carcinomas. In situ hybridization studies demonstrate that PPARδ is expressed in normal colon and localized to the epithelial cells at the very tips of the mucosal glands. In contrast, expression of PPARδ mRNA in colorectal tumors was more widespread with increased levels in transformed epithelial cells. Analysis of PPARδ and COX-2 mRNA in serial sections suggested they were colocalized to the same region within a tumor. Finally, transient transfection assays established that endogenously synthesized prostacyclin (PGI2) could serve as a ligand for PPARδ. In addition, the stable PGI2 analog, carbaprostacyclin, and a synthetic PPARδ agonist induced transactivation of endogenous PPARδ in human colon carcinoma cells. We conclude from these observations that PPARδ, similar to COX-2, is aberrantly expressed in colorectal tumors and that endogenous PPARδ is transcriptionally responsive to PGI2. However, the functional consequence of PPARδ activation in colon carcinogenesis still needs to be determined
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