Zinc finger E-box-binding protein 2 (ZEB2) is known to help mediate the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, and thereby it facilitates cancer metastasis. This study was initiated to explore whether ZEB2 expression differs in prostate cancer (PCa, n=7) and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, n=7) tissues. In PCa tissues, the levels of both immunoreactive ZEB2 and androgen receptor (AR) were found to be significantly higher (P<0.05) when compared with BPH tissues. Co-regulation of AR and ZEB2 prompted us to investigate the role of androgenic stimuli in ZEB2 expression. ZEB2 expression was found to be significantly (P<0.05) upregulated after androgen stimulation and downregulated following AR silencing in LNCaP cells, an androgen-dependent PCa cell line. This finding suggested AR as a positive regulator of ZEB2 expression in androgen-dependent cells. Paradoxically, androgen-independent (AI) cell lines PC3 and DU145, known to possess low AR levels, showed significantly (P<0.05) higher expression of ZEB2 compared with LNCaP cells. Furthermore, forced expression of AR in PC3 (PC3-AR) and DU145 (DU-AR) cells led to reductions in ZEB2 expression, invasiveness, and migration. These cells also exhibited an increase in the levels of E-cadherin (a transcriptional target of ZEB2). Co-transfection of AR and ZEB2 cDNA constructs prevented the decline in invasiveness and migration to a significant extent. Additionally, ZEB2 downregulation was associated with an increase in miR200a/miR200b levels in PC3-AR cells and with a decrease in miR200a/miR200b levels in AR-silenced LNCaP cells. Thus, AR acts as a positive regulator of ZEB2 expression in androgen-dependent cells and as a negative regulator in AI PCa cells.
Keywords: EMT; ZEB2; androgen receptor; prostate cancer.