Glucocorticoids can promote androgen-independent growth of prostate cancer cells through a mutated androgen receptor

Nat Med. 2000 Jun;6(6):703-6. doi: 10.1038/76287.


The androgen receptor (AR) is involved in the development, growth and progression of prostate cancer (CaP). CaP often progresses from an androgen-dependent to an androgen-independent tumor, making androgen ablation therapy ineffective. However, the mechanisms for the development of androgen-independent CaP are unclear. More than 80% of clinically androgen-independent prostate tumors show high levels of AR expression. In some CaPs, AR levels are increased because of gene amplification and/or overexpression, whereas in others, the AR is mutated. Nonetheless, the involvement of the AR in the transition of CaP to androgen-independent growth and the subsequent failure of endocrine therapy are not fully understood. Here we show that in CaP cells from a patient who failed androgen ablation therapy, a doubly mutated AR functioned as a high-affinity cortisol/cortisone receptor (ARccr). Cortisol, the main circulating glucocorticoid, and its metabolite, cortisone, both equally stimulate the growth of these CaP cells and increase the secretion of prostate-specific antigen in the absence of androgens. The physiological concentrations of free cortisol and total cortisone in men greatly exceed the binding affinity of the ARccr and would activate the receptor, promoting CaP cell proliferation. Our data demonstrate a previously unknown mechanism for the androgen-independent growth of advanced CaP. Understanding this mechanism and recognizing the presence of glucocorticoid-responsive AR mutants are important for the development of new forms of therapy for the treatment of this subset of CaP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aldosterone / metabolism
  • Aldosterone / pharmacology
  • Androgens
  • Animals
  • COS Cells
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Line
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Cortisone / metabolism
  • Cortisone / pharmacology
  • Dihydrotestosterone / metabolism
  • Dihydrotestosterone / pharmacology
  • Estradiol / metabolism
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism*
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Hydrocortisone / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mutagenesis
  • Progesterone / metabolism
  • Progesterone / pharmacology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Receptors, Androgen / genetics
  • Receptors, Androgen / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Androgens
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Aldosterone
  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol
  • Cortisone
  • Hydrocortisone