Background: The c-Met receptor tyrosine kinase is aberrantly activated in many solid tumors. In a prior study we showed that prostate cancer PC-3 cells exhibit constitutively activated c-Met without exogenous hepatocyte growth factor (HGF); however whether this characteristic is due to an endogenous HGF/c-Met autocrine loop remains controversial. In the current study we examined the response of PC-3 cells to an anti-HGF neutralizing antibody or a small molecule Met kinase inhibitor (BMS-777607).
Methods: Cell scattering was tested by monitoring cell morphology after HGF stimulation. Cell migration was examined by both "wound-healing" and transwell assasy and invasion was detected by Matrigel-coated transwell assay. Proliferation, survival and anoikis were determined by MTT, colony formation and trypan blue exclusion assay, respectively. Gene and protein expression were assessed by real-time PCR and Western blot, respectively.
Results: Although HGF mRNA could be detected in PC-3 cells, the molecular weight of secreted "HGF" protein was inconsistent with the functional recombinant HGF. Furthermore, conditioned medium from PC-3 cell cultures was ineffective at triggering either motogenic behavior or c-Met signaling in DU145, another prostate cancer cell line expressing c-Met but lacking basal c-Met activation. PC-3 cells also were not responsive to the anti-HGF neutralizing antibody in experiments assessing proliferation, migration, or c-Met signaling. BMS-777607 treatment with micromolar doses nonetheless led to significant inhibition of multiple PC-3 cell functions including proliferation, clonogenicity, migration and invasion. At the molecular level, BMS-777607 suppressed autophosphorylated c-Met and downstream c-Src and Akt pathways.
Conclusions: These results suggest that the constitutive c-Met activation in PC-3 is independent of autocrine stimulation. Because PC-3 cells were responsive to BMS-777607 but not the anti-HGF antibody, the findings also indicate that under circumstances where c-Met is constitutively hyperactive in the absence of functional HGF, targeting the c-Met receptor remains a viable therapeutic option to impede cancer progression.