Role of coordinated molecular alterations in the development of androgen-independent prostate cancer: An in vitro model that corroborates clinical observations

Yan Shi, Sunanda J. Chatterjee, Frank H. Brands, Shan Rong Shi, Llana Pootrakul, Clive R. Taylor, Ram Datar, Richard J. Cote

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24 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To investigate the role of potential downstream targets of HER-2/neu, including the cell-cycle regulator p27, proliferation-associated protein Ki-67, apoptosis inhibitor Bcl-2, and signal-transduction molecule Akt (which is associated with cell survival), as the development of androgen-independent prostate cancer (AIPC) in patients who are initially responsive to androgen-ablation therapy (AAT) is a significant clinical problem. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Earlier studies showed that high levels of HER-2/neu tyrosine kinase receptor expression as assessed by immunohistochemistry were significantly associated with the development of AIPC, and we hypothesised that HER-2/neu overexpression provides an alternative proliferative stimulus upon androgen depletion. We established a unique clinical model system, comprising patients who received no AAT, or who had preoperative AAT, or those with advanced tumours resistant to AAT. To test our hypothesis in vitro, we stably transfected full-length HER-2/neu cDNA in androgen-responsive LNCaP cells and examined the effects of HER-2/neu overexpression on cell proliferation, apoptosis, androgen-receptor activation, and Akt phosphorylation upon androgen deprivation by using immunohistochemistry and Western blot technique. RESULTS: p27 expression was initially induced on exposure to AAT, and significantly decreased in AIPC (P < 0.001). There was also a significant increase in the Ki-67 index in AIPC (P = 0.001). Elevated Bcl-2 expression was closely associated with AAT (P = 0.002), suggesting that Bcl-2 expression is induced on initial exposure to AAT. Further, Bcl-2 expression was highest in hormone-resistant cancers (P < 0.001). Using the HER-2/neu transfected cell-line model, we confirmed the mechanistic basis of the clinical observations which elucidate the pathway leading to HER-2/neu-mediated androgen independence. On androgen deprivation, the HER-2/neu transfected cells had higher proliferation rates, lower G1 arrest, inhibited p27 up-regulation, a lower apoptotic index, and higher Bcl-2, prostate-specific antigen and phosphorylated Akt expression than the mock-transfected LNCaP cells. CONCLUSION: This study suggests that prostate cancer cells undergo a series of coordinated changes after exposure to AAT, which eventually result in the development of androgen independence. Further, in support of previous results, it appears that a major factor in this process is the induction of HER-2/neu overexpression, which occurs after initial exposure to AAT. HER-2/neu may contribute to the development of androgen independence through: (i) maintaining cell proliferation; (ii) inhibiting apoptosis; and/or (iii) inducing AR activation in a ligand-independent fashion. These effects may be mediated, at least in part, through activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-178
Number of pages9
JournalBJU international
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Androgen receptor
  • Apoptosis
  • Bcl-2
  • Hormonal resistance
  • Prostate carcinoma
  • p27


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