Expression of pluripotent stem cell reprogramming factors by prostate tumor initiating cells

J Urol. 2010 May;183(5):2045-53. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2009.12.092. Epub 2010 Mar 19.


Purpose: We identified a discrete population of stem cell-like tumor cells expressing 5 essential transcription factors required to reprogram pluripotency in prostate tumor cell lines and primary prostate cancer tissue.

Materials and methods: DU145 and PC3 human prostate cancer cell lines (ATCC), tumor tissue from patients with prostate cancer and normal prostate tissue were evaluated for the reprogramming factors OCT3/4 (Cell Signaling Technology), SOX2, Klf4 (Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Santa Cruz, California), Nanog (BioLegend) and c-Myc (Cell Signaling) by semiquantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, histological and immunohistochemical analysis. Stem cell-like tumor cells were enriched by flow cytometric cell sorting using E-cadherin (R&D Systems) as a surface marker, and soft agar, spheroid and tumorigenicity assays to confirm cancer stem cell-like characteristics.

Results: mRNA expression of transcription factors OCT3/4 and SOX2 highly correlated in primary prostate tumor tissue samples. The number of OCT3/4 or SOX2 expressing cells was significantly increased in prostate cancer tissue compared to that in normal prostate or benign prostate hyperplasia tissue (p <0.05). When isolated from the DU145 and PC3 prostate cancer cell lines by flow cytometry, stem cell-like tumor cells expressing high OCT3/4 and SOX2 levels showed high tumorigenicity in immunodeficient mice. In vivo growth of the parental DU145 and PC3 prostate cancer cell lines was inhibited by short hairpin RNA knockdown of OCT3/4 or SOX2.

Conclusions: Data suggest that prostate tumor cells expressing pluripotent stem cell transcription factors are highly tumorigenic. Identifying such cells and their importance in prostate cancer growth could provide opportunities for novel targeting strategies for prostate cancer therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Middle Aged
  • Nanog Homeobox Protein
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / genetics
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / metabolism
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors / genetics
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • GKLF protein
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors
  • MYCBP protein, human
  • NANOG protein, human
  • Nanog Homeobox Protein
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3
  • POU5F1 protein, human
  • RNA, Messenger
  • SOX2 protein, human
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors