Accelerated in vivo growth of prostate tumors that up-regulate interleukin-6 is associated with reduced retinoblastoma protein expression and activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway

Am J Pathol. 2003 Feb;162(2):655-63. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)63859-X.


Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a multifunctional cytokine that activates the signaling pathways of Janus kinases-signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT) and/or mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) in various tumors. Thus, it modulates cell growth and apoptosis. IL-6 levels are elevated in tissues and sera from prostate cancer patients and IL-6 receptor expression has been detected in prostate cancer cell lines and clinical specimens. Continuous exposure of prostate cancer cells to IL-6 might alter their responsiveness to this cytokine. To gain more insight into the function of IL-6 in prostate carcinoma, we have inoculated LNCaP-IL-6+ cells, generated after prolonged treatment with IL-6, into nude mice (total n = 16, two independent experiments). Controls included animals bearing LNCaP-IL-6- cells, passaged at the same time as LNCaP-IL-6+ cells without supplementation of IL-6. LNCaP-IL-6+ tumor volumes were larger than those of their counterparts at all time points. There were no signs of cachexia in any of the experimental animals and all mice were free of metastases. To better understand the mechanisms responsible for accelerated growth of LNCaP-IL-6+ tumors, we have investigated the expression of cell-cycle regulatory molecules by Western blot analysis. The levels of cyclin-dependent kinase 2 were elevated in LNCaP-IL-6+ cells. There was a strong down-regulation of cyclins D1 and E in the LNCaP-IL-6+ subline. The cell-cycle inhibitor p27 was expressed at a low level in LNCaP-IL-6+ cells and could not be up-regulated by addition of IL-6. Most notably, LNCaP-IL-6+ cells exhibited a reduced expression of the hypophosphorylated form of the retinoblastoma protein (pRb). Accelerated tumor growth in our model system was also associated with alterations in IL-6-signaling pathways. The ability of IL-6 to induce tyrosine phosphorylation of STAT3 was abolished in the LNCaP-IL-6+ subline. In contrast, the levels of the MAPK extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1/2 increased in cells generated after long-term IL-6 treatment. The inhibitor of MAPK kinase PD 98059 retarded the proliferation of LNCaP-IL-6+ but not that of control cells. In summary, we show in the present study that chronic exposure of prostate cancer cells to IL-6 facilitates tumor growth in vivo by abolishment of the growth control by pRb and activation of the MAPK signaling pathway. These findings could be relevant to understand the role of IL-6 in prostate cancer progression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic* / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic* / immunology
  • Genes, Retinoblastoma* / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / pharmacology*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / drug effects*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / immunology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / genetics*
  • Transplantation, Heterologous


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Interleukin-6
  • Retinoblastoma Protein