The insulin-like growth factor (IGF) axis is a complex system composed of 2 mitogenic ligands, IGF-I and -II, 2 receptors, IGF-1R and IGF-2R, and 6 binding proteins, IGFBP-1 to -6. The IGFBPs exert their actions through their regulation of IGF bioavailability for IGF receptors. In addition, some IGFBPs have also been found to have direct cellular actions independent of IGFs. IGFBP-2 is a major IGFBP in the prostate and in seminal fluid. IGFBP-2 levels, which are elevated in many malignancies, are markedly increased in prostate cancer, and show a positive correlation with prostate specific antigen (PSA) and prostate tumor aggressiveness. We investigated the potential role of IGFBP-2 in the pathogenesis of prostate cancer by evaluating its ability to stimulate growth and the expression and activity of the nuclear enzyme, telomerase. We found IGFBP-2 to have a modest suppressive effect on the growth of primary cultures of normal prostate epithelial cells and a potent IGF-antagonistic effect in these cells, similar to previous reports on the inhibitory nature of this molecule. Surprisingly, IGFBP-2 had a potent stimulatory effect on growth of LAPC-4 prostate cancer cells, an effect that was more pronounced in the absence of androgens. IGFBP-2 growth stimulation of LAPC-4 cells was completely blocked by MAP-kinase inhibitors and partially blocked by PI3-kinase inhibitors. IGFBP-2 stimulation of LAPC-4 cell growth seen in serum-free conditions was lost in the presence of 10% FBS. IGFBP-2 also had a growth stimulatory effect on DU 145 prostate cancer cells. IGFBP-2 significantly stimulated telomerase activity in LAPC-4 cells in the absence of androgens. In addition, IGFBP-2 significantly stimulated hTERT expression and telomerase activity in DU 145 cells. Thus, we demonstrated an inhibitory effect of IGFBP-2 on non-malignant prostate cells, but showed it to be stimulatory for prostate cancer cells in a MAP-kinase and androgen-modulated process. In conclusion, IGFBP-2 may play a role in the progression, but not in the initiation of the prostate cancer disease process, suggesting the existence of a molecular switch transitioning IGFBP-2 from a growth inhibitor to a pro-carcinogenic molecule.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.