Neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC) is an aggressive subtype of castration-resistant prostate cancer that typically does not respond to androgen receptor pathway inhibition (ARPI), and its diagnosis is increasing.
To understand how NEPC develops and to identify driver genes to inform therapy for NEPC prevention.
Whole-transcriptome sequencing data were extracted from prostate tumors from two independent cohorts: The Beltran cohort contained 27 adenocarcinoma and five NEPC patient samples, and the Vancouver Prostate Centre cohort contained three patient samples and nine patient-derived xenografts.
A novel bioinformatics tool, comparative alternative splicing detection (COMPAS), was invented to analyze alternative RNA splicing on RNA-sequencing data.
COMPAS identified potential driver genes for NEPC development. Biochemical and biological validations were performed in both prostate cell and tumor models.
More than 66% of the splice events were predicted to be regulated by the RNA splicing factor serine/arginine repetitive matrix 4 (SRRM4). In vitro and in vivo evidence confirmed that one SRRM4 target gene was the RE1 silencing transcription factor (REST), a master regulator of neurogenesis. Moreover, SRRM4 strongly stimulated adenocarcinoma cells to express NEPC biomarkers, and this effect was exacerbated by ARPI. ARPI combined with a gain of SRRM4-induced adenocarcinoma cells to assume multicellular spheroid morphology and was essential in establishing progressive NEPC xenografts. These SRRM4 actions were further enhanced by loss of function of TP53.
SRRM4 drives NEPC progression. This knowledge may guide the development of novel therapeutics aimed at NEPC.
Using next-generation RNA sequencing and our newly developed bioinformatics tool, we identified a neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC)-specific RNA splicing signature that is predominantly controlled by serine/arginine repetitive matrix 4 (SRRM4). We confirmed that SRRM4 drives NEPC progression, and we propose SRRM4 as a potential therapeutic target for NEPC.