Androgenic regulation of hedgehog signaling pathway components in prostate cancer cells

Cell Cycle. 2009 Jan 1;8(1):149-57. doi: 10.4161/cc.8.1.7532.


Hedgehog signaling is thought to play a role in several human cancers including prostate cancer. Although prostate cancer cells express many of the gene products involved in hedgehog signaling, these cells are refractory to the canonical signaling effects of exogenous hedgehog ligands or to activated Smoothened, the hedgehog-regulated mediator of Gli transcriptional activation. Here, we show that the expression of hedgehog ligands and some hedgehog target genes are regulated by androgen in the human prostate cancer cell line, LNCaP and its more metastatic variants (C4-2 and C4-2B). Androgen (R1881) strongly suppressed the expression of hedgehog ligands in these cells and their prolonged maintenance in androgen-deficient medium upregulated Sonic and Indian hedgehog mRNA and protein levels by up to 30,000-fold. Hedgehogs were released into the conditioned medium of androgen-deprived LNCaP cells and this medium was able to increase hedgehog target gene expression in hedgehog-responsive mouse fibroblasts (MC3T3-E1). Moreover, this activity was accompanied by increased expression of Gli target genes, Patched 1 and Gli2, in LNCaP that could be suppressed by cyclopamine, indicating that chronic androgen-deprivation also re-awakens the autocrine responsiveness of the cancer cells to hedgehog. In contrast to the suppressive effects of R1881 on hedgehog ligand and Gli2 expression, we found that Gli1 expression in LNCaP cells was induced by R1881. Given the ability of androgen to modulate the expression and release of hedgehog ligands and the activity of the autocrine hedgehog signaling pathway in these prostate cancer cells, our results imply that chronic androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) for prostate cancer might create a hedgehog signaling environment in the region of the tumor that could ultimately impact on the long term effectiveness of this treatment. This consideration supports the idea of clinically testing hedgehog-blocking drugs in conjunction with ADT in patients with advanced prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Genes, Neoplasm
  • Hedgehog Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Male
  • Metribolone / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Paracrine Communication / drug effects
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*


  • Androgens
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Ligands
  • Metribolone