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  • Author: Hannelore V Heemers x
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Sangeeta Kumari, Dhirodatta Senapati and Hannelore V Heemers

With few exceptions, the almost 30,000 prostate cancer deaths annually in the United States are due to failure of androgen deprivation therapy. Androgen deprivation therapy prevents ligand-activation of the androgen receptor. Despite initial remission after androgen deprivation therapy, prostate cancer almost invariably progresses while continuing to rely on androgen receptor action. Androgen receptor’s transcriptional output, which ultimately controls prostate cancer behavior, is an alternative therapeutic target, but its molecular regulation is poorly understood. Recent insights in the molecular mechanisms by which the androgen receptor controls transcription of its target genes are uncovering gene specificity as well as context-dependency. Heterogeneity in the androgen receptor’s transcriptional output is reflected both in its recruitment to diverse cognate DNA binding motifs and in its preferential interaction with associated pioneering factors, other secondary transcription factors and coregulators at those sites. This variability suggests that multiple, distinct modes of androgen receptor action that regulate diverse aspects of prostate cancer biology and contribute differentially to prostate cancer’s clinical progression are active simultaneously in prostate cancer cells. Recent progress in the development of peptidomimetics and small molecules, and application of Chem-Seq approaches indicate the feasibility for selective disruption of critical protein–protein and protein–DNA interactions in transcriptional complexes. Here, we review the recent literature on the different molecular mechanisms by which the androgen receptor transcriptionally controls prostate cancer progression, and we explore the potential to translate these insights into novel, more selective forms of therapies that may bypass prostate cancer’s resistance to conventional androgen deprivation therapy.

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Varadha Balaji Venkadakrishnan, Salma Ben-Salem and Hannelore V Heemers

Prostate cancer (CaP) is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Western men. Because androgens drive CaP by activating the androgen receptor (AR), blocking AR’s ligand activation, known as androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), is the default treatment for metastatic CaP. Despite an initial remission, CaP eventually develops resistance to ADT and progresses to castration-recurrent CaP (CRPC). CRPC continues to rely on aberrantly activated AR that is no longer inhibited effectively by available therapeutics. Interference with signaling pathways downstream of activated AR that mediate aggressive CRPC behavior may lead to alternative CaP treatments. Developing such therapeutic strategies requires a thorough mechanistic understanding of the most clinically relevant and druggable AR-dependent signaling events. Recent proteomics analyses of CRPC clinical specimens indicate a shift in the phosphoproteome during CaP progression. Kinases and phosphatases represent druggable entities, for which clinically tested inhibitors are available, some of which are incorporated already in treatment plans for other human malignancies. Here, we reviewed the AR-associated transcriptome and translational regulon, and AR interactome involved in CaP phosphorylation events. Novel and for the most part mutually exclusive AR-dependent transcriptional and post-transcriptional control over kinase and phosphatase expression was found, with yet other phospho-regulators interacting with AR. The multiple mechanisms by which AR can shape and fine-tune the CaP phosphoproteome were reflected in diverse aspects of CaP biology such as cell cycle progression and cell migration. Furthermore, we examined the potential, limitations and challenges of interfering with AR-mediated phosphorylation events as alternative strategy to block AR function during CaP progression.

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Stephen A Boorjian, Hannelore V Heemers, Igor Frank, Sara A Farmer, Lucy J Schmidt, Thomas J Sebo and Donald J Tindall

Urothelial carcinoma (UC) of the bladder is approximately three times more common in men than women. While the etiology for this gender difference in incidence remains unknown, a role for androgen receptor (AR) signaling has been suggested. The mechanisms by which AR activity is regulated in UC cells, however, are largely elusive. Here, we explore the significance of coregulators that are critical for the formation of a functional AR transcriptional complex, in UC cells. Using two AR-positive UC cell lines, TCC-SUP and UMUC3, we demonstrate the expression of the coactivators NCOA1, NCOA2, NCOA3, CREBBP, and EP300 in UC cells. small interfering RNA-mediated knockdown of the AR or any of these coactivators markedly impacted cell viability and abrogated androgen-dependent cell proliferation. Noteworthy, contrary to AR-positive prostate cancer cells, expression of these AR-associated coactivators was not androgen regulated in UC cells. To assess the clinical relevance of coactivator expression, we performed immunohistochemistry on paraffin-embedded sections from 55 patients with UC of the bladder. We found that while 24 out of 55 (44%) of tumors expressed the AR, each of the coactivators was expressed by 85–100% of the bladder cancers. Moreover, we noted a significant downregulation of NCOA1 expression in tumors versus adjacent, non-tumor bladder urothelium, with a mean of 68% (range 0–100) of tumor cells demonstrating NCOA1 staining versus a mean of 81% (range 0–90) of non-tumor cells (P=0.03). Taken together, our data suggest an important role for AR-associated coactivators in UC and point toward differences in the regulation of AR activity between bladder and prostate cancer cells.