Tissue homeostasis depends on responses to environmental insults to restore cellular phenotype, microenvironment composition, and tissue architecture. Inflammation is essential to the disruption of homeostasis, and, in the pancreas, can destabilize the identity of terminally differentiated acinar cells. Herein we employ lineage-traced mouse models to delineate the chromatin dynamics that accompany the cycle of metaplasia and regeneration following pancreatitis, and unveil the presence of an epigenetic memory of inflammation in the pancreatic acinar cell compartment. We observe that despite histologic resolution of pancreatitis, acinar cells fail to return to their molecular baseline after several months, representing an incomplete cell fate decision. In vivo, this epigenetic memory controls lineage plasticity, with diminished metaplasia in response to a second inflammatory insult but increased tumorigenesis with an oncogenic Kras mutation. We demonstrate that both persistent chromatin and transcriptional changes constituting memory are recalled with oncogenic stress. Together, our findings define a capacity for an environmental insult to control future cell-fate decisions in a context-dependent manner. The ability of epigenetic memory to potentiate tumor initiation both broadens the relationship between inflammation and cancer and raises the possibility that inducing epigenetic ‘amnesia’ of an inflammatory insult could be leveraged as a novel cancer prevention strategy.

Citation Format: David J. Falvo, Adrien Grimont, Paul Zumbo, Julie L. Yang, Alexa Osterhoudt, Grace Pan, Andre F. Rendeiro, John Erby Wilkinson, Friederike Dundar, Olivier Elemento, Rhonda K. Yantiss, Doron Betel, Richard Koche, Rohit Chandwani. An epigenetic memory of inflammation controls context-dependent lineage plasticity and KRAS-driven tumorigenesis in the pancreas. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Special Conference: Cancer Epigenomics; 2022 Oct 6-8; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2022;82(23 Suppl_2):Abstract nr PR008.