We have described a rare group of prostate adenocarcinomas that show aberrant expression of p63, a protein strongly expressed in prostatic basal cells and absent from usual-type acinar prostate cancers. The partial basal-like immunophenotype of these tumors is intriguing in light of the persistent debate surrounding the cell-of-origin for prostate cancer; however, their molecular phenotype is unknown. We collected 37 of these tumors on radical prostatectomy and biopsy and assessed subsets for a diverse panel of molecular markers. The majority of p63-expressing tumors were positive for the ?Np63 isoform (6/7) by immunofluorescence and p63 mRNA (7/8) by chromogenic in situ hybridization. Despite p63 positivity, these tumors uniformly expressed luminal-type cytokeratin proteins such as CK18 (13/13), CK8 (8/8), and markers of androgen axis signaling commonly seen in luminal cells, including androgen receptor (10/11), NKX3.1 (8/8), and prostein (12/13). Conversely, basal cytokeratins such as CK14 and CK15 were negative in all cases (0/8) and CK5/6 was weakly and focally positive in 36% (4/11) of cases. Pluripotency markers including ?-catenin, Oct4, and c-kit were negative in p63-expressing tumors (0/11). Despite nearly universal expression of androgen receptor and downstream androgen signaling targets, p63-expressing tumors lacked ERG rearrangements by fluorescence in situ hybridization (0/14) and ERG protein expression (0/37). No tumors expressed SPINK1 or showed PTEN protein loss (0/19). Surprisingly, 74% (14/19) of p63-expressing tumors expressed GSTP1 protein at least focally, and 33% (2/6) entirely lacked GSTP1 CpG island hypermethylation by bisulfite sequencing. In contrast to usual prostatic adenocarcinomas, prostate tumors with p63 expression show a mixed luminal/basal immunophenotype, uniformly lack ERG gene rearrangement, and frequently express GSTP1. These data strongly suggest that p63-expressing prostate tumors represent a molecularly distinct subclass and further study of this rare tumor type may yield important insights into the role of p63 in prostatic biology and the prostate cancer cell-of-origin.Modern Pathology advance online publication, 12 September 2014; doi:10.1038/modpathol.2014.115.
The persistence leukemia stem cells (LSCs) in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) despite tyrosine kinase inhibition (TKI) may explain relapse after TKI withdrawal. Here we performed genome-wide transcriptome analysis of highly refined CML and normal stem and progenitor cell populations to identify novel targets for the eradication of CML LSCs using exon microarrays. We identified 97 genes that were differentially expressed in CML versus normal stem and progenitor cells. These included cell surface genes significantly upregulated in CML LSCs: DPP4 (CD26), IL2RA (CD25), PTPRD, CACNA1D, IL1RAP, SLC4A4, and KCNK5. Further analyses of the LSCs revealed dysregulation of normal cellular processes, evidenced by alternative splicing of genes in key cancer signaling pathways such as p53 signaling (e.g. PERP, CDKN1A), kinase binding (e.g. DUSP12, MARCKS), and cell proliferation (MYCN, TIMELESS); downregulation of pro-differentiation and TGF-?/BMP signaling pathways; upregulation of oxidative metabolism and DNA repair pathways; and activation of inflammatory cytokines, including CCL2, and multiple oncogenes (e.g., CCND1). These data represent an important resource for understanding the molecular changes in CML LSCs, which may be exploited to develop novel therapies for eradication these cells and achieve cure.
Recent controversies surrounding prostate cancer overtreatment emphasize the critical need to delineate the molecular features associated with progression to lethal metastatic disease. Here, we have used whole-genome sequencing and molecular pathological analyses to characterize the lethal cell clone in a patient who died of prostate cancer. We tracked the evolution of the lethal cell clone from the primary cancer to metastases through samples collected during disease progression and at the time of death. Surprisingly, these analyses revealed that the lethal clone arose from a small, relatively low-grade cancer focus in the primary tumor, and not from the bulk, higher-grade primary cancer or from a lymph node metastasis resected at prostatectomy. Despite being limited to one case, these findings highlight the potential importance of developing and implementing molecular prognostic and predictive markers, such as alterations of tumor suppressor proteins PTEN or p53, to augment current pathological evaluation and delineate clonal heterogeneity. Furthermore, this case illustrates the potential need in precision medicine to longitudinally sample metastatic lesions to capture the evolving constellation of alterations during progression. Similar comprehensive studies of additional prostate cancer cases are warranted to understand the extent to which these issues may challenge prostate cancer clinical management.
TMPRSS2-ERG rearrangements occur in approximately 50% of prostate cancers and therefore represent one of the most frequently observed structural rearrangements in all cancers. However, little is known about the genomic architecture of such rearrangements. We therefore designed and optimized a pipeline involving target capture of TMPRSS2 and ERG genomic sequences coupled with paired-end next-generation sequencing to resolve genomic rearrangement breakpoints in TMPRSS2 and ERG at nucleotide resolution in a large series of primary prostate cancer specimens (n = 83). This strategy showed > 90% sensitivity and specificity in identifying TMPRSS2-ERG rearrangements, and allowed identification of intra- and inter-chromosomal rearrangements involving TMPRSS2 and ERG with known and novel fusion partners. Our results indicate that rearrangement breakpoints show strong clustering in specific intronic regions of TMPRSS2 and ERG. The observed TMPRSS2-ERG rearrangements often exhibited complex chromosomal architecture associated with several intra- and inter-chromosomal rearrangements. Nucleotide resolution analysis of breakpoint junctions revealed that the majority of TMPRSS2 and ERG rearrangements (~88%) occurred at or near regions of microhomology or involved insertions of one or more base pairs. This architecture implicates non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) and microhomology-mediated end joining (MMEJ) pathways in the generation of such rearrangements. These analyses have provided important insights into the molecular mechanisms involved in generating prostate cancer-specific recurrent rearrangements.
Human cancers almost ubiquitously harbor epigenetic alterations. Although such alterations in epigenetic marks, including DNA methylation, are potentially heritable, they can also be dynamically altered. Given this potential for plasticity, the degree to which epigenetic changes can be subject to selection and act as drivers of neoplasia has been questioned. We carried out genome-scale analyses of DNA methylation alterations in lethal metastatic prostate cancer and created DNA methylation "cityscape" plots to visualize these complex data. We show that somatic DNA methylation alterations, despite showing marked interindividual heterogeneity among men with lethal metastatic prostate cancer, were maintained across all metastases within the same individual. The overall extent of maintenance in DNA methylation changes was comparable to that of genetic copy number alterations. Regions that were frequently hypermethylated across individuals were markedly enriched for cancer- and development/differentiation-related genes. Additionally, regions exhibiting high consistency of hypermethylation across metastases within individuals, even if variably hypermethylated across individuals, showed enrichment for cancer-related genes. Whereas some regions showed intraindividual metastatic tumor heterogeneity in promoter methylation, such methylation alterations were generally not correlated with gene expression. This was despite a general tendency for promoter methylation patterns to be strongly correlated with gene expression, particularly at regions that were variably methylated across individuals. These findings suggest that DNA methylation alterations have the potential for producing selectable driver events in carcinogenesis and disease progression and highlight the possibility of targeting such epigenome alterations for development of longitudinal markers and therapeutic strategies.
DNA methylation at the 5-position of cytosines (5 mC) represents an important epigenetic modification involved in tissue differentiation and is frequently altered in cancer. Recent evidence suggests that 5 mC can be converted to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5 hmC) in an enzymatic process involving members of the TET protein family. Such 5 hmC modifications are known to be prevalent in DNA of embryonic stem cells and in the brain, but the distribution of 5 hmC in the majority of embryonic and adult tissues has not been rigorously explored. Here, we describe an immunohistochemical detection method for 5 hmC and the application of this technique to study the distribution of 5 hmC in a large set of mouse and human tissues. We found that 5 hmC was abundant in the majority of embryonic and adult tissues. Additionally, the level of 5 hmC closely tracked with the differentiation state of cells in hierarchically organized tissues. The highest 5 hmC levels were observed in terminally differentiated cells, while less differentiated tissue stem/progenitor cell compartments had very low 5 hmC levels. Furthermore, 5 hmC levels were profoundly reduced in carcinoma of the prostate, breast and colon compared to normal tissues. Our findings suggest a distinct role for 5 hmC in tissue differentiation, and provide evidence for its large-scale loss in cancers.
Analytically validated assays to interrogate biomarker status in clinical samples are crucial for personalized medicine. PTEN is a tumor suppressor commonly inactivated in prostate cancer that has been mechanistically linked to disease aggressiveness. Though deletion of PTEN, as detected by cumbersome FISH spot counting assays, is associated with poor prognosis, few studies have validated immunohistochemistry (IHC) assays to determine whether loss of PTEN protein is associated with unfavorable disease.
A newly discovered gammaretrovirus, termed XMRV, was recently reported to be present in the prostate cancer cell line CWR22Rv1. Using a combination of both immunohistochemistry with broadly-reactive murine leukemia virus (MLV) anti-sera and PCR, we determined if additional prostate cancer or other cell lines contain XMRV or MLV-related viruses. Our study included a total of 72 cell lines, which included 58 of the 60 human cancer cell lines used in anticancer drug screens and maintained at the NCI-Frederick (NCI-60). We have identified gammaretroviruses in two additional prostate cancer cell lines: LAPC4 and VCaP, and show that these viruses are replication competent. Viral genome sequencing identified the virus in LAPC4 and VCaP as nearly identical to another known xenotropic MLV, Bxv-1. We also identified a gammaretrovirus in the non-small-cell lung carcinoma cell line EKVX. Prostate cancer cell lines appear to have a propensity for infection with murine gammaretroviruses, and we propose that this may be in part due to cell line establishment by xenograft passage in immunocompromised mice. It is unclear if infection with these viruses is necessary for cell line establishment, or what confounding role they may play in experiments performed with these commonly used lines. Importantly, our results suggest a need for regular screening of cancer cell lines for retroviral "contamination", much like routine mycoplasma testing.
DNA methylation has been linked to genome regulation and dysregulation in health and disease respectively, and methods for characterizing genomic DNA methylation patterns are rapidly emerging. We have developed/refined methods for enrichment of methylated genomic fragments using the methyl-binding domain of the human MBD2 protein (MBD2-MBD) followed by analysis with high-density tiling microarrays. This MBD-chip approach was used to characterize DNA methylation patterns across all non-repetitive sequences of human chromosomes 21 and 22 at high-resolution in normal and malignant prostate cells.
Loss-of-function mutations in the nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) inhibitor Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1) result in increased Nrf2 activity in non-small cell lung cancer and confer therapeutic resistance. We detected point mutations in Keap1 gene, leading to nonconservative amino acid substitutions in prostate cancer cells. We found novel transcriptional and posttranscriptional mechanisms of Keap1 inactivation, such as promoter CpG island hypermethylation and aberrant splicing of Keap1, in DU-145 cells. Very low levels of Keap1 mRNA were detected in DU-145 cells, which significantly increased by treatment with DNA methyltransferase inhibitor 5-aza-deoxycytidine. The loss of Keap1 function led to an enhanced activity of Nrf2 and its downstream electrophile/drug detoxification pathway. Inhibition of Nrf2 expression in DU-145 cells by RNA interference attenuated the expression of glutathione, thioredoxin, and the drug efflux pathways involved in counteracting electrophiles, oxidative stress, and detoxification of a broad spectrum of drugs. DU-145 cells constitutively expressing Nrf2 short hairpin RNA had lower levels of total glutathione and higher levels of intracellular reactive oxygen species. Attenuation of Nrf2 function in DU-145 cells enhanced sensitivity to chemotherapeutic drugs and radiation-induced cell death. In addition, inhibition of Nrf2 greatly suppressed in vitro and in vivo tumor growth of DU-145 prostate cancer cells. Thus, targeting the Nrf2 pathway in prostate cancer cells may provide a novel strategy to enhance chemotherapy and radiotherapy responsiveness and ameliorate the growth and tumorigenicity, leading to improved clinical outcomes.
DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) can lead to the development of genomic rearrangements, which are hallmarks of cancer. Fusions between TMPRSS2, encoding the transmembrane serine protease isoform 2, and ERG, encoding the v-ets erythroblastosis virus E26 oncogene homolog, are among the most common oncogenic rearrangements observed in human cancer. We show that androgen signaling promotes co-recruitment of androgen receptor and topoisomerase II beta (TOP2B) to sites of TMPRSS2-ERG genomic breakpoints, triggering recombinogenic TOP2B-mediated DSBs. Furthermore, androgen stimulation resulted in de novo production of TMPRSS2-ERG fusion transcripts in a process that required TOP2B and components of the DSB repair machinery. Finally, unlike normal prostate epithelium, prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia cells showed strong coexpression of androgen receptor and TOP2B. These findings implicate androgen-induced TOP2B-mediated DSBs in generating TMPRSS2-ERG rearrangements.
miR-21 is the most commonly over-expressed microRNA (miRNA) in cancer and a proven oncogene. Hsa-miR-21 is located on chromosome 17q23.2, immediately downstream of the vacuole membrane protein-1 (VMP1) gene, also known as TMEM49. VMP1 transcripts initiate ? 130 kb upstream of miR-21, are spliced, and polyadenylated only a few hundred base pairs upstream of the miR-21 hairpin. On the other hand, primary miR-21 transcripts (pri-miR-21) originate within the last introns of VMP1, but bypass VMP1 polyadenylation signals to include the miR-21 hairpin. Here, we report that VMP1 transcripts can also bypass these polyadenylation signals to include miR-21, thus providing a novel and independently regulated source of miR-21, termed VMP1-miR-21. Northern blotting, gene-specific RT-PCR, RNA pull-down and DNA branching assays support that VMP1-miR-21 is expressed at significant levels in a number of cancer cell lines and that it is processed by the Microprocessor complex to produce mature miR-21. VMP1 and pri-miR-21 are induced by common stimuli, such as phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate (PMA) and androgens, but show differential responses to some stimuli such as epigenetic modifying agents. Collectively, these results indicate that miR-21 is a unique miRNA capable of being regulated by alternative polyadenylation and two independent gene promoters.
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