The therapeutic options for treating pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) are limited, and resistance to gemcitabine, a cornerstone of PDAC chemotherapy regimens, remains a major challenge. N6-methyladenosine (m6A) is a prevalent modification in mRNA that has been linked to diverse biological processes in human diseases. Herein, by characterizing the global m6A profile in a panel of gemcitabine-sensitive and gemcitabine-insensitive PDAC cells, we identified a key role for elevated m6A modification of the master G0–G1 regulator FZR1 in regulating gemcitabine sensitivity. Targeting FZR1 m6A modification augmented the response to gemcitabine treatment in gemcitabine-resistant PDAC cells both in vitro and in vivo. Mechanistically, GEMIN5 was identified as a novel m6A mediator that specifically bound to m6A-modified FZR1 and recruited the eIF3 translation initiation complex to accelerate FZR1 translation. FZR1 upregulation maintained the G0–G1 quiescent state and suppressed gemcitabine sensitivity in PDAC cells. Clinical analysis further demonstrated that both high levels of FZR1 m6A modification and FZR1 protein corresponded to poor response to gemcitabine. These findings reveal the critical function of m6A modification in regulating gemcitabine sensitivity in PDAC and identify the FZR1–GEMIN5 axis as a potential target to enhance gemcitabine response.
Increased FZR1 translation induced by m6A modification engenders a gemcitabine-resistant phenotype by inducing a quiescent state and confers a targetable vulnerability to improve treatment response in PDAC.