The role of the Eph and ephrin proteins in prostate cancer

McCarron, Jennifer Kylie (2011) The role of the Eph and ephrin proteins in prostate cancer. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed malignancy and the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in Australian men. Treatment in the early stages of the disease involves surgery, radiation and/or hormone therapy. However, in late stages of the disease these treatments are no longer effective and only palliative care is available. Therefore, there is a focus on exploration of novel therapies to increase survival and treatment efficacy. Advanced prostate cancer is characterised by bone or other distant metastasis. Spreading of the primary tumour to a secondary location is a complex process requiring an initial loss in cell-cell adhesion followed by increased cell migration and invasion. One gene family that has been known to affect cell-to-cell contact in other model systems are the Eph receptor tyrosine kinases. They are the largest family of receptor tyrosine kinases made up of 14 vertebrate Eph receptors that bind to nine cell membrane bound ephrin ligands. Eph-ephrin interaction is crucial in regulating cell behaviour in developmental processes and it is now thought that the underlying mechanisms involved in development may also be involved in cancer. Aberrant expression has been reported in many human malignancies including prostate cancer. Furthermore, expression has been linked with metastasis and poor prognosis in other tumour models. This study explores the potential role of the Eph receptor family in prostate cancer, in particular the roles of EphA2, EphA3 and ephrin-A5.

Gene expression profiles were established for the Eph family in a series of prostate cancer cell lines using quantitative real time RT-PCR. A smaller subset of the most prominently expressed genes was chosen to screen a cohort of clinical samples. Elevated levels of EphA2, EphA3 and their ligands, ephrin-A1 and ephrin-A5 were observed in individual cell lines. Interestingly high EphA3 expression was observed in the androgen responsive cell lines while EphA2 was more prominent in the androgen independent cell lines. However, studies using 5-dihydrotestosterone suggest that EphA3 expression in not regulated by androgen. Cells expressing EphA2 showed a greater ability for migration and invasion while cells expressing EphA3 showed poor migration and invasion. Forced expression of EphA2 in the LNCaP cell line resulted in a more invasive phenotype while forced expression of EphA3 in the PC-3 cell line suggests a possible negative effect for EphA3 on cell migration and invasion.

Cell signalling studies show activation of EphA2 decreases activity of proteins thought to be involved in pathways regulating cell movement including Akt, Src and FAK. Changes to the activation status of Rho family members, including RhoA and Rac1, associated with reorganisation of the actin cytoskeleton, an important part of cell migration was also observed. As a result, activation of EphA2 in PC-3 cells resulted in a less invasive phenotype. A novel finding in this study was the discovery of a combination of two EphA2 Mabs able to activate EphA2. Preliminary results show a potential for this antibody combination to reduce prostate cancer invasion in vitro.

A unique aspect of Eph-ephrin interaction is the resulting bi-directional signalling that occurs through both the receptor and ligand. In this study a potential role for ephrin-A5 mediated signalling in prostate cancer was observed. LNCaP cells express high levels of EphA3 and its high affinity ligand ephrin-A5. In stripe assays, used to study guidance cues, LNCaP cells show strong attraction/migration to EphA3-Fc stripes but not ephrin-A5-Fc stripes suggesting ephrin-A5 mediated reverse cell signalling is involved. Knockdown of ephrin-A5 using shRNA resulted in a decrease in attraction/migration to EphA3-Fc stripes. Furthermore a reduction in proliferation was also observed in vitro. A subcutaneous xenograft model using ephrin-A5 shRNA cells versus controls showed a decrease in tumour formation.

This study demonstrates a difference in EphA2 and EphA3 function in prostate cancer migration/invasion and a potential role for ephrin-A5 in prostate cancer cell adhesion and growth.

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ID Code: 67918
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Herington, Adrian & Boyd, Andrew
Keywords: Eph receptor, ephrin ligand, prostate cancer, EphA2, EphA3, ephrin-A5, migration, invasion
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 27 Feb 2014 23:45
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2015 04:40

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