Background: The serine/threonine kinase PIM1 has been implicated as an oncogene in various human cancers including lymphomas, gastric, colorectal and prostate carcinomas. In mouse models, Pim1 is known to cooperate with c-Myc to promote tumorigenicity. However, there has been limited analysis of the tumorigenic potential of Pim1 overexpression in benign and malignant human prostate cancer cells in vivo.
Methods: We overexpressed Pim1 in three human prostate cell lines representing different disease stages including benign (RWPE1), androgen-dependent cancer (LNCaP) and androgen-independent cancer (DU145). We then analyzed in vitro and in vivo tumorigenicity as well as the effect of Pim1 overexpression on c-MYC transcriptional activity by reporter assays and gene expression profiling using an inducible MYC-ER system. To validate that Pim1 induces tumorigenicity and target gene expression by modulating c-MYC transcriptional activity, we inhibited c-MYC using a small molecule inhibitor (10058-F4) or RNA interference.
Results: Overexpression of Pim1 alone was not sufficient to convert the benign RWPE1 cell to malignancy although it enhanced their proliferation rates when grown as xenografts in vivo. However, Pim1 expression enhanced the in vitro and in vivo tumorigenic potentials of the human prostate cancer cell lines LNCaP and DU145. Reporter assays revealed increased c-MYC transcriptional activity in Pim1-expressing cells and mRNA expression profiling demonstrated that a large fraction of c-MYC target genes were also regulated by Pim1 expression. The c-MYC inhibitor 10058-F4 suppressed the tumorigenicity of Pim1-expressing prostate cancer cells. Interestingly, 10058-F4 treatment also led to a reduction of Pim1 protein but not mRNA. Knocking-down c-MYC using short hairpin RNA reversed the effects of Pim1 on Pim1/MYC target genes.
Conclusion: Our results suggest an in vivo role of Pim1 in promoting prostate tumorigenesis although it displayed distinct oncogenic activities depending on the disease stage of the cell line. Pim1 promotes tumorigenicity at least in part by enhancing c-MYC transcriptional activity. We also made the novel discovery that treatment of cells with the c-MYC inhibitor 10058-F4 leads to a reduction in Pim1 protein levels.