The NKX3.1 homeobox gene plays essential roles in prostate differentiation and prostate cancer. We show that loss of function of Nkx3.1 in mouse prostate results in down-regulation of genes that are essential for prostate differentiation, as well as up-regulation of genes that are not normally expressed in prostate. Conversely, gain of function of Nkx3.1 in an otherwise fully differentiated nonprostatic mouse epithelium (seminal vesicle) is sufficient for respecification to prostate in renal grafts in vivo. In human prostate cells, these activities require the interaction of NKX3.1 with the G9a histone methyltransferase via the homeodomain and are mediated by activation of target genes such as UTY (KDM6c), the male-specific paralog of UTX (KDM6a) We propose that an NKX3.1-G9a-UTY transcriptional regulatory network is essential for prostate differentiation, and we speculate that disruption of such a network predisposes to prostate cancer.
Copyright © 2016, American Association for the Advancement of Science.