Invasive mouse gastric adenocarcinomas arising from Lgr5+ stem cells are dependent on crosstalk between the Hedgehog/GLI2 and mTOR pathways

Li Jyun Syu, Xinyi Zhao, Yaqing Zhang, Marina Grachtchouk, Elise Demitrack, Alexandre Ermilov, Dawn M. Wilbert, Xinlei Zheng, Ashley Kaatz, Joel K. Greenson, Deborah L. Gumucio, Juanita L. Merchant, Marina Pasca di Magliano, Linda C. Samuelson, Andrzej A. Dlugosz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Gastric adenocarcinoma is the third most common cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Here we report a novel, highly-penetrant mouse model of invasive gastric cancer arising from deregulated Hedgehog/Gli2 signaling targeted to Lgr5-expressing stem cells in adult stomach. Tumor development progressed rapidly: Three weeks after inducing the Hh pathway oncogene GLI2A, 65% of mice harbored in situ gastric cancer, and an additional 23% of mice had locally invasive tumors. Advanced mouse gastric tumors had multiple features in common with human gastric adenocarcinomas, including characteristic histological changes, expression of RNA and protein markers, and the presence of major inflammatory and stromal cell populations. A subset of tumor cells underwent epithelial-mesenchymal transition, likely mediated by focal activation of canonical Wnt signaling and Snail1 induction. Strikingly, mTOR pathway activation, based on pS6 expression, was robustly activated in mouse gastric adenocarcinomas from the earliest stages of tumor development, and treatment with rapamycin impaired tumor growth. GLI2A-expressing epithelial cells were detected transiently in intestine, which also contains Lgr5+ stem cells, but they did not give rise to epithelial tumors in this organ. These findings establish that deregulated activation of Hedgehog/Gli2 signaling in Lgr5-expressing stem cells is sufficient to drive gastric adenocarcinoma development in mice, identify a critical requirement for mTOR signaling in the pathogenesis of these tumors, and underscore the importance of tissue context in defining stem cell responsiveness to oncogenic stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10255-10270
Number of pages16
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • GLI2
  • Gastric cancer
  • Lgr5
  • MTOR
  • Stem cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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