Background: Cancer initiation and progression might be driven by small populations of cells endowed with stem cell-like properties. Here we comparatively addressed the expression of genes encoding putative stemness regulators including c-Myc, Klf4, Nanog, Oct4A and Sox2 genes in benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer (PCA).
Methods: Fifty-eight PCA and thirty-nine BPH tissues samples were used for gene expression analysis, as evaluated by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). The expression of specific Klf4 isoforms was tested by conventional PCR. Klf4 specific antibodies were used for protein detection in a tissue microarray including 404 prostate samples.
Results: Nanog, Oct4A and Sox2 genes were comparably expressed in BPH and PCA samples, whereas c-Myc and Klf4 genes were expressed to significantly higher extents in PCA than in BPH specimens. Immunohistochemical studies revealed that Klf4 protein is detectable in a large majority of epithelial prostatic cells, irrespective of malignant transformation. However, in PCA, a predominantly cytoplasmic location was observed, consistent with the expression of a differentially spliced Klf4α isoform.
Conclusion: Klf4 is highly expressed at gene and protein level in BPH and PCA tissues but a cytoplasmic location of the specific gene product is predominantly detectable in malignant cells. Klf4 location might be of critical relevance to steer its functions during oncogenesis.
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