Background: Genetic studies associated the CAPB locus with familial risk of brain and prostate cancers. We have identified HSPG2 (Perlecan) as a candidate gene for CAPB. Previously we have linked Perlecan to Hedgehog signaling in Drosophila. More recently, we have demonstrated the importance of Hedgehog signaling in humans for advanced prostate cancer.
Results: Here we demonstrate Perlecan expression in prostate cancer, and its function in prostate cancer cell growth through interaction and modulation of Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) signaling. Perlecan expression in prostate cancer tissues correlates with a high Gleason score and rapid cell proliferation. Perlecan is highly expressed in prostate cancer cell lines, including androgen insensitive cell lines and cell lines selected for metastatic properties. Inhibition of Perlecan expression in these cell lines decreases cell growth. Simultaneous blockade of Perlecan expression and androgen signaling in the androgen-sensitive cell line LNCaP was additive, indicating the independence of these two pathways. Perlecan expression correlates with SHH in tumor tissue microarrays and increased tumor cell proliferation based on Ki-67 immunohistochemistry. Inhibition of Perlecan expression by siRNA in prostate cancer cell lines decreases SHH signaling while expression of the downstream SHH effector GLI1 rescues the proliferation defect. Perlecan forms complexes with increasing amounts of SHH that correlate with increasing metastatic potential of the prostate cancer cell line. SHH signaling also increases in the more metastatic cell lines. Metastatic prostate cancer cell lines grown under serum-starved conditions (low androgen and growth factors) resulted in maintenance of Perlecan expression. Under low androgen, low growth factor conditions, Perlecan expression level correlates with the ability of the cells to maintain SHH signaling.
Conclusion: We have demonstrated that Perlecan, a candidate gene for the CAPB locus, is a new component of the SHH pathway in prostate tumors and works independently of androgen signaling. In metastatic tumor cells increased SHH signaling correlates with the maintenance of Perlecan expression and more Perlecan-SHH complexes. Perlecan is a proteoglycan that regulates extracellular and stromal accessibility to growth factors such as SHH, thus allowing for the maintenance of SHH signaling under growth factor limiting conditions. This proteoglycan represents an important central regulator of SHH activity and presents an ideal drug target for blocking SHH effects.