Crosstalk between developmental and tumour-specific signalling pathways : kallikrein-related serine peptidases and nodal in prostrate cancer

Lawrence, Mitchell Graham (2009) Crosstalk between developmental and tumour-specific signalling pathways : kallikrein-related serine peptidases and nodal in prostrate cancer. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Prostate cancer is an important male health issue. The strategies used to diagnose and treat prostate cancer underscore the cell and molecular interactions that promote disease progression. Prostate cancer is histologically defined by increasingly undifferentiated tumour cells and therapeutically targeted by androgen ablation. Even as the normal glandular architecture of the adult prostate is lost, prostate cancer cells remain dependent on the androgen receptor (AR) for growth and survival. This project focused on androgen-regulated gene expression, altered cellular differentiation, and the nexus between these two concepts.

The AR controls prostate development, homeostasis and cancer progression by regulating the expression of downstream genes. Kallikrein-related serine peptidases are prominent transcriptional targets of AR in the adult prostate. Kallikrein 3 (KLK3), which is commonly referred to as prostate-specific antigen, is the current serum biomarker for prostate cancer. Other kallikreins are potential adjunct biomarkers. As secreted proteases, kallikreins act through enzyme cascades that may modulate the prostate cancer microenvironment. Both as a panel of biomarkers and cascade of proteases, the roles of kallikreins are interconnected. Yet the expression and regulation of different kallikreins in prostate cancer has not been compared. In this study, a spectrum of prostate cell lines was used to evaluate the expression profile of all 15 members of the kallikrein family. A cluster of genes was co-ordinately expressed in androgenresponsive cell lines. This group of kallikreins included KLK2, 3, 4 and 15, which are located adjacent to one another at the centromeric end of the kallikrein locus. KLK14 was also of interest, because it was ubiquitously expressed among the prostate cell lines. Immunohistochemistry showed that these 5 kallikreins are co-expressed in benign and malignant prostate tissue. The androgen-regulated expression of KLK2 and KLK3 is well-characterised, but has not been compared with other kallikreins. Therefore, KLK2, 3, 4, 14 and 15 expression were all measured in time course and dose response experiments with androgens, AR-antagonist treatments, hormone deprivation experiments and cells transfected with AR siRNA. Collectively, these experiments demonstrated that prostatic kallikreins are specifically and directly regulated by the AR. The data also revealed that kallikrein genes are differentially regulated by androgens; KLK2 and KLK3 were strongly up-regulated, KLK4 and KLK15 were modestly up-regulated, and KLK14 was repressed. Notably, KLK14 is located at the telomeric end of the kallikrein locus, far away from the centromeric cluster of kallikreins that are stimulated by androgens. These results show that the expression of KLK2, 3, 4, 14 and 15 is maintained in prostate cancer, but that these genes exhibit different responses to androgens. This makes the kallikrein locus an ideal model to investigate AR signalling.

The increasingly dedifferentiated phenotype of aggressive prostate cancer cells is accompanied by the re-expression of signalling molecules that are usually expressed during embryogenesis and foetal tissue development. The Wnt pathway is one developmental cascade that is reactivated in prostate cancer. The canonical Wnt cascade regulates the intracellular levels of β-catenin, a potent transcriptional co-activator of T-cell factor (TCF) transcription factors. Notably, β-catenin can also bind to the AR and synergistically stimulate androgen-mediated gene expression. This is at the expense of typical Wnt/TCF target genes, because the AR:β-catenin and TCF:β-catenin interactions are mutually exclusive. The effect of β-catenin on kallikrein expression was examined to further investigate the role of β-catenin in prostate cancer. Stable knockdown of β-catenin in LNCaP prostate cancer cells attenuated the androgen-regulated expression of KLK2, 3, 4 and 15, but not KLK14. To test whether KLK14 is instead a TCF:β-catenin target gene, the endogenous levels of β-catenin were increased by inhibiting its degradation. Although KLK14 expression was up-regulated by these treatments, siRNA knockdown of β-catenin demonstrated that this effect was independent of β-catenin. These results show that β-catenin is required for maximal expression of KLK2, 3, 4 and 15, but not KLK14.

Developmental cells and tumour cells express a similar repertoire of signalling molecules, which means that these different cell types are responsive to one another. Previous reports have shown that stem cells and foetal tissues can reprogram aggressive cancer cells to less aggressive phenotypes by restoring the balance to developmental signalling pathways that are highly dysregulated in cancer. To investigate this phenomenon in prostate cancer, DU145 and PC-3 prostate cancer cells were cultured on matrices pre-conditioned with human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Soft agar assays showed that prostate cancer cells exposed to hESC conditioned matrices had reduced clonogenicity compared with cells harvested from control matrices. A recent study demonstrated that this effect was partially due to hESC-derived Lefty, an antagonist of Nodal. A member of the transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) superfamily, Nodal regulates embryogenesis and is re-expressed in cancer. The role of Nodal in prostate cancer has not previously been reported. Therefore, the expression and function of the Nodal signalling pathway in prostate cancer was investigated. Western blots confirmed that Nodal is expressed in DU145 and PC-3 cells. Immunohistochemistry revealed greater expression of Nodal in malignant versus benign glands. Notably, the Nodal inhibitor, Lefty, was not expressed at the mRNA level in any prostate cell lines tested. The Nodal signalling pathway is functionally active in prostate cancer cells. Recombinant Nodal treatments triggered downstream phosphorylation of Smad2 in DU145 and LNCaP cells, and stably-transfected Nodal increased the clonogencity of LNCaP cells. Nodal was also found to modulate AR signalling. Nodal reduced the activity of an androgen-regulated KLK3 promoter construct in luciferase assays and attenuated the endogenous expression of AR target genes including prostatic kallikreins. These results demonstrate that Nodal is a novel example of a developmental signalling molecule that is reexpressed in prostate cancer and may have a functional role in prostate cancer progression.

In summary, this project clarifies the role of androgens and changing cellular differentiation in prostate cancer by characterising the expression and function of the downstream genes encoding kallikrein-related serine proteases and Nodal. Furthermore, this study emphasises the similarities between prostate cancer and early development, and the crosstalk between developmental signalling pathways and the AR axis. The outcomes of this project also affirm the utility of the kallikrein locus as a model system to monitor tumour progression and the phenotype of prostate cancer cells.

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ID Code: 37184
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Clements, Judith & Nicol, David
Keywords: kallikrein, androgen receptor, AR, conditioned matrix, CMTX, Cripto, human embryonic stem cell, hESC, kallikrein-related serine peptase, KLK, Lefty, microenvironment, nodal, prostrate cancer, prostrate-specific antigen, PSA, wnt, thesis, doctoral, β-catenin
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 22 Sep 2010 13:07
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2016 07:46

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