The normal prostate and early-stage prostate cancers depend on androgens for growth and survival, and androgen ablation therapy causes them to regress. Cancers that are not cured by surgery eventually become androgen independent, rendering anti-androgen therapy ineffective. But how does androgen independence arise? We predict that understanding the pathways that lead to the development of androgen-independent prostate cancer will pave the way to effective therapies for these, at present, untreatable cancers.
The normal development and maintenance of the prostate is dependent on androgen acting through the androgen receptor (AR). AR remains important in the development and progression of prostate cancer. AR expression is maintained throughout prostate cancer progression, and the majority of androgen-independent or hormone refractory prostate cancers express AR. Mutation of AR, especially mutations that result in a relaxation of AR ligand specificity, may contribute to the progression of prostate cancer and the failure of endocrine therapy by allowing AR transcriptional activation in response to antiandrogens or other endogenous hormones. Similarly, alterations in the relative expression of AR coregulators have been found to occur with prostate cancer progression and may contribute to differences in AR ligand specificity or transcriptional activity. Prostate cancer progression is also associated with increased growth factor production and an altered response to growth factors by prostate cancer cells. The kinase signal transduction cascades initiated by mitogenic growth factors modulate the transcriptional activity of AR and the interaction between AR and AR coactivators. The inhibition of AR activity through mechanisms in addition to androgen ablation, such as modulation of signal transduction pathways, may delay prostate cancer progression.
Glycogen synthase kinase-3beta (GSK3beta) is a fascinating enzyme with an astoundingly diverse number of actions in intracellular signaling systems. GSK3beta activity is regulated by serine (inhibitory) and tyrosine (stimulatory) phosphorylation, by protein complex formation, and by its intracellular localization. GSK3beta phosphorylates and thereby regulates the functions of many metabolic, signaling, and structural proteins. Notable among the signaling proteins regulated by GSK3beta are the many transcription factors, including activator protein-1, cyclic AMP response element binding protein, heat shock factor-1, nuclear factor of activated T cells, Myc, beta-catenin, CCAAT/enhancer binding protein, and NFkappaB. Lithium, the primary therapeutic agent for bipolar mood disorder, is a selective inhibitor of GSK3beta. This raises the possibility that dysregulation of GSK3beta and its inhibition by lithium may contribute to the disorder and its treatment, respectively. GSK3beta has been linked to all of the primary abnormalities associated with Alzheimer's disease. These include interactions between GSK3beta and components of the plaque-producing amyloid system, the participation of GSK3beta in phosphorylating the microtubule-binding protein tau that may contribute to the formation of neurofibrillary tangles, and interactions of GSK3beta with presenilin and other Alzheimer's disease-associated proteins. GSK3beta also regulates cell survival, as it facilitates a variety of apoptotic mechanisms, and lithium provides protection from many insults. Thus, GSK3beta has a central role regulating neuronal plasticity, gene expression, and cell survival, and may be a key component of certain psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases.
Chromosomal rearrangements fusing the androgen-regulated gene TMPRSS2 to the oncogenic ETS transcription factor ERG occur in approximately 50% of prostate cancers, but how the fusion products regulate prostate cancer remains unclear. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled with massively parallel sequencing, we found that ERG disrupts androgen receptor (AR) signaling by inhibiting AR expression, binding to and inhibiting AR activity at gene-specific loci, and inducing repressive epigenetic programs via direct activation of the H3K27 methyltransferase EZH2, a Polycomb group protein. These findings provide a working model in which TMPRSS2-ERG plays a critical role in cancer progression by disrupting lineage-specific differentiation of the prostate and potentiating the EZH2-mediated dedifferentiation program.
The androgen receptor (AR) is involved in the development, growth and progression of prostate cancer (CaP). CaP often progresses from an androgen-dependent to an androgen-independent tumor, making androgen ablation therapy ineffective. However, the mechanisms for the development of androgen-independent CaP are unclear. More than 80% of clinically androgen-independent prostate tumors show high levels of AR expression. In some CaPs, AR levels are increased because of gene amplification and/or overexpression, whereas in others, the AR is mutated. Nonetheless, the involvement of the AR in the transition of CaP to androgen-independent growth and the subsequent failure of endocrine therapy are not fully understood. Here we show that in CaP cells from a patient who failed androgen ablation therapy, a doubly mutated AR functioned as a high-affinity cortisol/cortisone receptor (ARccr). Cortisol, the main circulating glucocorticoid, and its metabolite, cortisone, both equally stimulate the growth of these CaP cells and increase the secretion of prostate-specific antigen in the absence of androgens. The physiological concentrations of free cortisol and total cortisone in men greatly exceed the binding affinity of the ARccr and would activate the receptor, promoting CaP cell proliferation. Our data demonstrate a previously unknown mechanism for the androgen-independent growth of advanced CaP. Understanding this mechanism and recognizing the presence of glucocorticoid-responsive AR mutants are important for the development of new forms of therapy for the treatment of this subset of CaP.
Recurrent gene fusions involving oncogenic ETS transcription factors (including ERG, ETV1, and ETV4) have been identified in a large fraction of prostate cancers. The most common fusions contain the 5' untranslated region of TMPRSS2 fused to ERG. Recently, we identified additional 5' partners in ETV1 fusions, including TMPRSS2, SLC45A3, HERV-K_22q11.23, C15ORF21, and HNRPA2B1. Here, we identify ETV5 as the fourth ETS family member involved in recurrent gene rearrangements in prostate cancer. Characterization of two cases with ETV5 outlier expression by RNA ligase-mediated rapid amplification of cDNA ends identified one case with a TMPRSS2:ETV5 fusion and one case with a SLC45A3:ETV5 fusion. We confirmed the presence of these fusions by quantitative PCR and fluorescence in situ hybridization. In vitro recapitulation of ETV5 overexpression induced invasion in RWPE cells, a benign immortalized prostatic epithelial cell line. Expression profiling and an integrative molecular concepts analysis of RWPE-ETV5 cells also revealed the induction of an invasive transcriptional program, consistent with ERG and ETV1 overexpression in RWPE cells, emphasizing the functional redundancy of ETS rearrangements. Together, our results suggest that the family of 5' partners previously identified in ETV1 gene fusions can fuse with other ETS family members, suggesting numerous rare gene fusion permutations in prostate cancer.
The PI3-K-Akt pathway plays a central role in the development and progression of prostate cancer and other malignancies. We review original studies and summarize relevant sections of previous reviews concerning the relationships between abnormalities in the PI3-K-Akt pathway and prostate cancer progression. We discuss laboratory and clinical data that indicate gene perturbation and dysregulation of PI3-K-Akt pathway is common in prostate cancer and other malignancies. We further discuss the critical role of the PI3-K-Akt pathway in the oncogenic signaling network and provide examples that establish the PI3-K-Akt pathway as a focal point for the future development of informative biomarkers and effective therapies for prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common non-dermatologic malignancy in men in the Western world. Recently, a frequent chromosomal aberration fusing androgen regulated TMPRSS2 promoter and the ERG gene (TMPRSS2/ERG) was discovered in prostate cancer. Several studies demonstrated cooperation between TMPRSS2/ERG and other defective pathways in cancer progression. However, the unveiling of more specific pathways in which TMPRSS2/ERG takes part, requires further investigation. Using immortalized prostate epithelial cells we were able to show that TMPRSS2/ERG over-expressing cells undergo an Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition (EMT), manifested by acquisition of mesenchymal morphology and markers as well as migration and invasion capabilities. These findings were corroborated in vivo, where the control cells gave rise to discrete nodules while the TMPRSS2/ERG-expressing cells formed malignant tumors, which expressed EMT markers. To further investigate the general transcription scheme induced by TMPRSS2/ERG, cells were subjected to a microarray analysis that revealed a distinct EMT expression program, including up-regulation of the EMT facilitators, ZEB1 and ZEB2, and down-regulation of the epithelial marker CDH1(E-Cadherin). A chromatin immunoprecipitation assay revealed direct binding of TMPRSS2/ERG to the promoter of ZEB1 but not ZEB2. However, TMPRSS2/ERG was able to bind the promoters of the ZEB2 modulators, IL1R2 and SPINT1. This set of experiments further illuminates the mechanism by which the TMPRSS2/ERG fusion affects prostate cancer progression and might assist in targeting TMPRSS2/ERG and its downstream targets in future drug design efforts.
The prostate gland depends on androgen stimulation for its development and growth. However, testosterone is not the major androgen responsible for growth of the prostate. Testosterone is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by the enzyme Delta(4), 3 ketosteroid, 5alpha-reductase in prostatic stromal and basal cells. DHT is primarily responsible for prostate development and the pathogenesis of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Inhibitors of 5alpha-reductase reduce prostate size by 20% to 30%. This reduction in glandular tissue is achieved by the induction of apoptosis, which is histologically manifested by ductal atrophy. Inhibition also diminishes the number of blood vessels in the prostate because of a reduction in vascular-derived endothelial growth factor. 5alpha-Reductase occurs as 2 isozymes, type 1 and type 2, with the prostate expressing predominantly the type-2 isozyme, and the liver and skin expressing primarily the type-1 isozyme. Patients have been identified with deficiencies in the type-2 5alpha-reductase, but not type 1. Knockout mice with the type-2 5alpha-reductase demonstrate a phenotype similar to that seen in men with 5alpha-reductase deficiency. Type-1 5alpha-reductase knockout male mice are phenotypically normal. Enzymatic activity for 5alpha-reductase or immunohistochemical detection has been noted in other genitourinary tissues, such as the epididymis, testes, gubernaculum, and corporal cavernosal tissue. Preputial skin predominately expresses the type-1 5alpha-reductase, whereas stromal cells in the seminal vesicle also express type-2 isozyme. However, epithelial cells in the epididymis, but not surrounding stroma, express type-1 5alpha-reductase. In addition to influencing prostatic growth, 5alpha-reductase also influences the expression of neuronal nitric-oxide synthase in the corpus cavernosum. The contribution of DHT in the serum, which is partially derived from type-1 5alpha-reductase in the liver and the small amount of type-1 5alpha-reductase in the prostate, may play a role in maintaining prostatic enlargement. Thus, in an effort to increase efficacy of treatment for BPH, clinical trials are under way using new drugs, such as GI-198745 (Glaxo-Wellcome, Research Triangle Park, NC), PNU 157706 (Pharmacia & Upjohn, Peapack, NJ), FR146687 (Fujisawa, Osaka, Japan), and LY 320236 (Lilly, Indianapolis, IN), which inhibit both the type-1 and type-2 5alpha-reductase.
Two studies show that the common recurrent gene fusion between TMPRSS2 and ERG promotes prostate cancer in both mouse and humans when PTEN is concurrently lost. In human prostate cancer, the presence of both these aberrations may be indicative of poor prognosis, suggesting that preclinical therapeutic research should target both of these pathways.
Androgen receptor (AR) is a nuclear transcription factor that binds male sex steroids and mediates the biological effects of these hormones to the target cells, such as the epithelial cells of the prostate gland, by activating transcription of androgen-dependent genes. Withdrawal of androgens or the peripheral blockade of androgen action remain the critical therapeutic options for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer. However, after initial regression, many prostate cancers become hormone refractory and progress further with eventual fatal outcome. Understanding the mechanisms of tumor progression and endocrine therapy failure is an important goal. A large number of different molecular mechanisms may be responsible for development of hormone-refractory recurrent tumors. Many of these involve the AR gene and its complex downstream signaling pathways. The role of AR mutations and altered transactivational properties of the receptor have received the most attention as causative factors for progression. However, other mechanisms, such as AR gene amplification and overexpression or increased local bioconversion of androgens, may contribute to the development of progression by mechanisms that involve androgen-dependent cell growth. Here we review the role of the AR gene and its putative downstream effector pathways during human prostate cancer progression and endocrine therapy failure.
ETS-related gene (ERG) is a member of the E-26 transformation-specific (ETS) family of transcription factors with roles in development that include vasculogenesis, angiogenesis, haematopoiesis and bone development. ERG's oncogenic potential is well known because of its involvement in Ewing's sarcoma and leukaemia. However, in the past decade ERG has become highly associated with prostate cancer development, particularly as a result of a gene fusion with the promoter region of the androgen-induced TMPRRSS2 gene. We review ERG's structure and function, and its role in prostate cancer. We discuss potential new therapies that are based on targeting ERG.
The cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor p27 binds to and inhibits preferentially S-phase kinases thereby halting cell cycle progression. Loss of p27 expression has been shown to be associated with aggressive behavior in a variety of human epithelial tumors including prostate cancer. In this review, the role of p27 in cell cycle progression as well as its regulation by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway are discussed. The experimental evidence pointing to the role of p27 as a tumor suppressor gene is outlined. The data generated to date on the prognostic significance of loss of p27 protein expression in human prostate cancers are summarized. Finally, the implications of the changes in p27 expression which occur as a result of androgen ablation in normal and neoplastic prostate are discussed.
The effects of glutathione (GSH) and of purified human and rat GSH S-transferases (GSTs) on the covalent DNA binding of 3 putative ultimate food-borne carcinogens, the N-acetoxy derivatives of 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo(4,5-b)pyridine (PhIP), 2-amino-3-methylimidazo(4,5-f)quinoline (IQ), and 2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo(4,5-f)quinoxaline (MeIQx), were studied in vitro. GSH (5 mM) alone slightly inhibited (10%) the DNA binding of N-acetoxy-PhIP (100 microM) at pH 7.5, but the binding could be strongly inhibited in the presence of both GSH and GSTs. Among human GSTs, the isozyme A1-1 (alpha-class) was most effective (90% inhibition) followed by A1-2 (40% inhibition); the effect of adding A2-2 was negligible, suggesting that the activity exists in subunit A1. In addition, human GST P1-1 (pi-class) also had some inhibitory effect (30%). Among the rat GSTs tested, GST 1-2 and GST 12-12 (theta-class), which are the equivalent of human A1-2 and T2-2, respectively, were able to inhibit DNA binding of N-acetoxy-PhIP (75 and 40%, respectively). This activity toward N-acetoxy-PhIP was dependent on enzyme concentration and was subject to inactivation by triethyltin bromide, a known GST inhibitor. In contrast, the binding of N-acetoxy-IQ or N-acetoxy-MeIQx to DNA was unaffected by addition of the human or rat GSTs; however, GSH alone significantly inhibited (40%) their binding to DNA. High-performance liquid chromatographic analyses of incubation mixtures containing N-acetoxy-PhIP, GSH, and GST A1-1 failed to detect GSH conjugates of PhIP. Only oxidized glutathione and the parent amine, PhIP, were detected as reaction products, suggesting a redox mechanism. GST activity in human hepatic and colon mucosal cytosols was subsequently examined using the synthetic or O-acetyltransferase-generated N-acetoxy derivatives of PhIP, IQ, and MeIQx as substrates. GST activity toward N-acetoxy-PhIP was expressed in all 8 livers but not in 6 colons. No activity toward N-acetoxy-IQ or N-acetoxy-MeIQx was detected in human liver cytosols. This study indicates that a GST-dependent detoxification pathway may be an important determinant for the organ specificity of the heterocyclic amine carcinogens. Moreover, the high specificity of the reaction for GST A1-1, which is known to be inducible by cruciferous and yellow-green vegetable consumption, is consistent with the protective effects of such diets against human colorectal cancer.
The TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusion is one of the most widely spread chromosomal rearrangements in carcinomas. Since its discovery, a number of studies have examined its diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic implications for prostate cancer where suitable biomarkers are still lacking. The publication data are inconsistent. The aim of this review was to critically evaluate the current clinical impact of this gene fusion.
The PubMed online database was used to search relevant reviews and original articles.
Although the TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusion appears to be a suitable diagnostic biomarker, the prognostic implications of this gene fusion are still unclear. Several new strategies for therapeutically targeting ETS fusions and their modulators have been identified and are currently being investigated.
Due to the heterogeneity of prostate cancer, the combination of several biomarkers is necessary to accurately assess the presence of prostate cancer, predict its potential clinical outcome and decide on appropriate therapy (e.g. PARP inhibitors).