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Ta-Chun Yuan, Suresh Veeramani, and Ming-Fong Lin

Neuroendocrine (NE) cells represent a minor cell population in the epithelial compartment of normal prostate glands and may play a role in regulating the growth and differentiation of normal prostate epithelia. In prostate tumor lesions, the population of NE-like cells, i.e., cells exhibiting NE phenotypes and expressing NE markers, is increased that correlates with tumor progression, poor prognosis, and the androgen-independent state. However, the origin of those NE-like cells in prostate cancer (PCa) lesions and the underlying molecular mechanism of enrichment remain an enigma. In this review, we focus on discussing the distinction between NE-like PCa and normal NE cells, the potential origin of NE-like PCa cells, and in vitro and in vivo studies related to the molecular mechanism of NE transdifferentiation of PCa cells. The data together suggest that PCa cells undergo a transdifferentiation process to become NE-like cells, which acquire the NE phenotype and express NE markers. Thus, we propose that those NE-like cells in PCa lesions were originated from cancerous epithelial cells, but not from normal NE cells, and should be defined as ‘NE-like PCa cells’. We further describe the biochemical properties of newly established, stable NE-like lymph node carcinoma of the prostate (LNCaP) cell lines, transdifferentiated from androgen-sensitive LNCaP cells under androgen-deprived conditions. Knowledge of understanding NE-like PCa cells will help us to explore new therapeutic strategies for treating PCa.

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Suresh Veeramani, Ta-Chun Yuan, Siu-Ju Chen, Fen-Fen Lin, Juliette E Petersen, Syed Shaheduzzaman, Shiv Srivastava, Richard G MacDonald, and Ming-Fong Lin

Human prostatic acid phosphatase (PAcP) was used as a valuable surrogate marker for monitoring prostate cancer prior to the availability of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Even though the level of PAcP is increased in the circulation of prostate cancer patients, its intracellular level and activity are greatly diminished in prostate cancer cells. Recent advances in understanding the function of the cellular form of PAcP (cPAcP) have shed some light on its role in prostate carcinogenesis, which may have potential applications for prostate cancer therapy. It is now evident that cPAcP functions as a neutral protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP) in prostate cancer cells and dephosphorylates HER-2/ErbB-2/Neu (HER-2: human epidermal growth factor receptor-2) at the phosphotyrosine (p-Tyr) residues. Dephosphorylation of HER-2 at its p-Tyr residues results in the down-regulation of its specific activity, which leads to decreases in growth and tumorigenicity of those cancer cells. Conversely, decreased cPAcP expression correlates with hyperphosphorylation of HER-2 at tyrosine residues and activation of downstream extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)/mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling, which results in prostate cancer progression as well as androgen-independent growth of prostate cancer cells. These in vitro results on the effect of cPAcP on androgen-independent growth of prostate cancer cells corroborate the clinical findings that cPAcP level is greatly decreased in advanced prostate cancer and provide insights into one of the molecular mechanisms involved in prostate cancer progression. Results from experiments using xenograft animal models further indicate a novel role of cPAcP as a tumor suppressor. Future studies are warranted to clarify the use of cPAcP as a therapeutic agent in human prostate cancer patients.

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Ta-Chun Yuan, Suresh Veeramani, Fen-Fen Lin, Dmitry Kondrikou, Stanislav Zelivianski, Tsukasa Igawa, Dev Karan, Surinder K. Batra, and Ming-Fong Lin

Neuroendocrine (NE) cells are the minor cell populations in normal prostate epithelial compartments. During prostate carcinogenesis, the number of NE cells in malignant lesions increases, correlating with its tumorigenicity and hormone-refractory growth. It is thus proposed that cancerous NE cells promote prostate cancer (PCa) cell progression and its androgen-independent proliferation, although the origin of the cancerous NE cells is not clear. To investigate the role of cancerous NE cells in prostate carcinogenesis, we characterized three NE subclone cell lines–NE-1.3, NE-1.8 and NE-1.9, which were transdifferentiated from androgen-sensitive human PCa LNCaP cells by culturing in an androgen-depleted environment, resembling clinical androgen-ablation therapy. These subclone cells acquire many features of NE cells seen in clinical prostate carcinomas, for example exhibiting a neuronal morphology and expressing multiple NE markers, including neuron-specific enolase, chromogranin B, neurotensin, parathyroid hormone-related peptide, and to a lesser degree for chromogranin A, while lacking androgen receptor (AR) or prostate specific antigen (PSA) expression. These cells represent terminally differentiated stable cells because after 3 months of re-culturing in a medium containing androgenic activity, they still retained the NE phenotype and expressed NE markers. Despite these NE cells having a slow growth rate, they readily developed xenograft tumors. Furthermore, media conditioned by these NE cells exhibited a stimulatory effect on proliferation and PSA secretion by LNCaP cells in androgen-deprived conditions. Additionally, we found that receptor protein tyrosine phosphatase α plays a role in upregulating multiple NE markers and acquiring the NE phenotype. These NE cells thus represent cancerous NE cells and could serve as a useful cell model system for investigating the role of cancerous NE cells in hormone-refractory proliferation of PCa cells.

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Yu-Hsuan Hsiao, Yu-Ting Huang, Chia-Yu Hung, Tzu-Chien Kuo, Fuh-Jinn Luo, and Ta-Chun Yuan

Androgen receptor (AR) is a steroid hormone receptor that functions as a transcription factor for regulating cell growth and survival. Aberrant AR function becomes a risk factor for promoting the progression of prostate cancer (PCa). In this study, we examined the roles of proline-rich tyrosine kinase 2 (PYK2) and ribosomal S6 kinase 1 (S6K1) in regulating AR expression and activity and growth properties in PCa cells. Compared with normal prostate tissues, PCa tumors exhibited high levels of PYK2 and S6K1 expression. Furthermore, the expression levels of PYK2 and S6K1 were significantly correlated with nuclear AR expression in PCa tissues. We further found the association between PYK2, S6K1, and AR in their protein expression and phosphorylation levels among normal prostate PZ-HPV-7 cells and prostate cancer LNCaP and 22Rv1 cells. Overexpression of the wild-type PYK2 in PZ-HPV-7 and LNCaP cells promoted AR and S6K1 expression and phosphorylation as well as enhanced cell growth. In contrast, expression of the mutated PYK2 or knockdown of PYK2 expression in LNCaP or 22Rv1 cells caused reduced expression or phosphorylation of AR and S6K1 as well as retarded cell growth. Under an androgen-deprived condition, PYK2-promoted AR expression and phosphorylation and PSA production in LNCaP cells can be abolished by knocking down S6K1 expression. In summary, our data suggested that PYK2 via S6K1 activation modulated AR function and growth properties in PCa cells. Thus, PYK2 and S6K1 may potentially serve as therapeutic targets for PCa treatment.

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Yi-Lin Chang, Yu-Kan Hsu, Tsung-Fan Wu, Chieh-Ming Huang, Li-Yin Liou, Ya-Wen Chiu, Yu-Hsuan Hsiao, Fuh-Jinn Luo, and Ta-Chun Yuan

Estrogen receptor α (ERA) is a DNA-binding transcription factor that plays an important role in the regulation of cell growth. Previous studies indicated that the expression of ERα in cell lines and tumors derived from oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). The aim of this study was to examine the activity and function of ERα in OSCC cells and the mechanism underlying ERα activation. Immunochemical analyses in benign (n=11) and malignant (n=21) lesions of the oral cavity showed that ERα immunoreactivity was observed in 43% (9/21) of malignant lesions, whereas none of benign lesions showed ERα immunoreactivity. The ERα expression was also found in three OSCC cell lines and its transcriptional activity was correlated with cell growth. Addition of estradiol stimulated cell growth, whereas treatment of tamoxifen or knockdown of ERα expression caused reduced cell growth. Interestingly, the expression and activity of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) were associated with the phosphorylation of ERα at serine 118 in OSCC cells. Elevated expression of FAK in the slow-growing SCC25 cells caused increases in ERα phosphorylation, transcriptional activity, and cell growth rate, whereas knockdown of FAK expression in the rapid-growing OECM-1 cells led to reduced ERα phosphorylation and activity and retarded cell growth. Inhibition of the activity of protein kinase B (AKT), but not ERK, abolished FAK-promoted ERα phosphorylation. These results suggest that OSCC cells expressed functional ERα, whose activity can be enhanced by FAK/AKT signaling, and this was critical for promoting cell growth. Thus, FAK and ERα can serve as the therapeutic targets for the treatment of OSCC.