The emergence of mutations in the androgen receptor (AR) gene is a recurrent event during progression of prostate cancer (PCa) on androgen ablation therapy. In this study, we show that nonsense mutations that lead to carboxyl-terminal end truncated ARs are found at high frequency in metastatic PCas. Transcriptional activities of the Q640X mutant AR in the androgen-sensitive LNCaP cell line differ to those of the wild-type AR. Indeed, this mutant AR exhibits strong and ligand-independent transcriptional activities from an artificial promoter construct containing two repeats of androgen-responsive elements, but is inactive on the human PSA gene promoter. Nevertheless, the expression of the Q640X mutant AR in LNCaP cells is accompanied by an increase in the level of PSA protein, and by an increase in the expression of the endogenous AR gene. This enhanced expression of the endogenous AR gene is not limited to the sole transfected cells, but is observed in non-transfected neighboring cells. Additionally, in co-cultures of transfected and non-transfected LNCaP cells, the Q640X mutant AR leads to an unpredicted nuclear localization of the endogenous AR protein in the two cellular populations and this, in the absence of androgen. These data indicate that cells expressing the Q640X mutant AR acquire the property to emit a signal that activates the AR in neighboring cells by a paracrine mechanism and in a ligand-independent manner. Our data strongly support the notion of cooperation among tumor cells in PCa and could be of relevance for the understanding of progression on androgen ablation therapy.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.