Genetic susceptibility to chronic pancreatitis in humans is frequently associated with mutations that increase activation of the digestive protease trypsin. Intrapancreatic trypsin activation is an early event in experimental acute pancreatitis in rodents, suggesting that trypsin is a key driver of pathology. In contrast to trypsin, the pancreatic protease chymotrypsin serves a protective function by mitigating trypsin activation through degradation. In humans, loss-of-function mutations in chymotrypsin C (CTRC) are common risk factors for chronic pancreatitis; however, the pathogenic effect of CTRC deficiency has not been corroborated in animal models yet. Here we report that C57BL/6 mice that are widely used for genetic manipulations do not express functional CTRC due to a single-nucleotide deletion in exon 2 of the Ctrc gene. We restored a functional Ctrc locus in C57BL/6N mice and demonstrated that in the novel Ctrc+ strain the severity of cerulein-induced experimental acute and chronic pancreatitis was significantly ameliorated. Improved disease parameters were associated with reduced intrapancreatic trypsin activation suggesting a causal link between CTRC-mediated trypsinogen degradation and protection against pancreatitis. Taken together with prior human genetic and biochemical studies, the observations provide conclusive evidence for the protective role of CTRC against pancreatitis.
Andrea Geisz, Zsanett Jancsó, Balázs Csaba Németh, Eszter Hegyi, Miklós Sahin-Tóth