Functional p53 determines docetaxel sensitivity in prostate cancer cells

Prostate. 2013 Mar;73(4):418-27. doi: 10.1002/pros.22583. Epub 2012 Sep 19.


Background: Docetaxel is the first line treatment for castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). However, docetaxel resistance rapidly develops. Identifying the critical mechanisms giving rise to docetaxel resistance is the major challenge in advanced prostate cancer.

Methods: The effects of docetaxel on human DU145, PC3, LNCaP, and C4-2 prostate cancer cells were examined in cell culture, and p53 expression were analyzed by Western blot analysis. The potential role of p53 in docetaxel sensitivity in prostate cancer cells was tested by either p53 silencing using shRNA or p53 overexpression by introducing wild-type p53.

Results: We found that DU145 (mutant p53) and PC3 (p53 null) cells were less sensitive than LNCaP and C4-2 cells expressing functional p53 in response to docetaxel. Docetaxel treatment induces considerably higher apoptosis in LNCaP and C4-2 cells than in DU145 and PC3 cells in a dose dependent manner. Docetaxel increases the levels of ser15 phosphorylation of p53 in a dose dependent manner in both LNCaP and C4-2 cells, while has no effect on the levels of ser15 phosphorylation of p53 in DU145 cells. These results suggest that p53 phosphorylation is associated with docetaxel sensitivity in prostate cancer cells. To further confirm whether p53 activation can induce cell sensitivity to docetaxel treatment, we used p53 shRNA to knock down p53 expression in C4-2 cells and determined the cells response to docetaxel treatment. Knockdown of p53 significantly down regulated p53 phosphorylation and blocked docetaxel induced apoptotic cell death compared to the vector control. To further confirm this observation, we established a stable knock out p53 in C4-2 cells. Down regulation of p53 in the stable p53 knock out C4-2 cells significantly inhibited docetaxel induced apoptotic cell death. We also used wild-type (WT) p53 to over express p53 in DU145 cells, and found that expression of WT-p53 in DU145 cells increased their sensitivity to docetaxel.

Conclusions: These results demonstrate that docetaxel induces p53 phosphorylation and that p53 status is a crucial determinant of docetaxel sensitivity in prostate cancer cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Docetaxel
  • Genes, p53 / drug effects
  • Genes, p53 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Taxoids / pharmacology*
  • Taxoids / therapeutic use


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Taxoids
  • Docetaxel