Background: Prostatic cancer cells are lethal because they acquire the ability to activate survival pathways that do not require androgenic stimulation. As a rational approach to developing effective therapy for these devastating cells, specific signal transduction pathways uniquely required for the survival of these nonandrogen-dependent prostate cancer cells must be identified. Previous studies suggested that the neurotrophin/trk signal transduction axis may regulate such unique survival pathways. In the present study, the changes in expression of the neurotrophins (NGF, BDNF, and NT-3) and their cognate receptors (i.e., trk and p75NTR) during the progression of normal prostatic epithelial cells to malignancy were documented. Additionally, the consequences of inhibiting these trk signaling pathways on the in vitro survival of prostate cancer cells was tested.
Methods: Immmunocytochemistry, RT-PCR, and ELISA assays were used to characterize the changes in the neurotrophin ligands (i.e., NGF, BDNF, and NT-3) and their cognate high-affinity (i.e., trk A, B, and C) and low-affinity neurotrophin (i.e., p75 NTR) receptors in normal vs. malignant human prostatic tissues. CEP-751 is an indolocarbazole compound specifically designed to inhibit the initiation of these neurotrophin/trk signal transductions. The consequence of CEP-751 inhibition of trk signaling for in vitro clonogenic survival of a series of human prostatic cancer lines was also tested.
Results: These studies demonstrated that normal prostatic tissue from patients without prostate cancer contains substantial levels of nerve growth factor (NGF), which is produced in a paracrine manner by stromal cells. These stromal cells lack both trk and p75NTR receptors. In contrast, normal prostatic epithelial cells from patients without prostate cancer do not secrete detectable levels of neurotrophins, but do express trk A and p75 NTR. While the NGF/trkA/p75 NTR axis is present in the normal prostate, normal prostatic epithelial cells do not depend on this axis for their survival. In contrast, malignant prostate epithelial cells directly secrete a series of neurotrophins (i.e., NGF, BDNF, and/or NT-3) and express at least one if not more of the trk receptor proteins (i.e., trk A, B, and/or C), while no longer expressing the p75NTR receptors. In addition, inhibition of autocrine trk signaling via CEP-751 treatment induces the apoptotic death of these malignant cells.
Conclusions: Prostate carcinogenesis involves molecular changes leading to the paracrine and/or autocrine production of a series of neurotrophins. This is coupled to the ectopic expression of trk B and trk C, as well as to the continued expression of trk A, and the loss of expression of p75NTR receptors. These changes result in the acquisition by malignant prostate cells of a unique requirement for trk signaling pathways for survival. Based on these findings, trk inhibition is a novel, rational approach for prostate cancer therapy.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.