Negative LC3b immunoreactivity in cancer cells is an independent prognostic predictor of prostate cancer specific death

Oncotarget. 2017 May 9;8(19):31765-31774. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.15986.


Background: Autophagy is a catabolic cellular process used for degradation of cytoplasmic organelles and preservation of cell viability. In this study we aimed to analyse the level of autophagy markers in benign and malignant prostate tissue and to evaluate the prognostic properties for patients with prostate cancer (PCa).

Results: LC3b expression was significantly upregulated in PCa, especially in metastatic and castration-resistant PCa samples compared to benign prostate tissue (p<0.001). Evaluation of expression in malignant radical prostatectomy specimens revealed an inverse association with preoperative serum PSA levels (p=0.02) and Gleason Score (p=0.07). LC3b immunoreactivity was identified as a novel predictor of PCa specific death after radical prostatectomy, independent of Gleason score, tumour stage, and surgical margin status in a multivariable cox regression analysis (hazard ratio 0.09, 95% confidence interval 0.01-0.69, p=0.021). A significant association of ATG-5 and Beclin 1 with LC3b expression could be noticed (p<0.001), but no link with other clincopathologic parameters was observed.

Methods: A Tissue microarray containing 468 formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded prostate tissue cores was stained immunohistochemically for major autophagy proteins LC3b, ATG5 and Beclin 1. Immunoreactivity was semiquantitatively scored and correlated with pathologic and clinical parameters, including tumour stage, Gleason score, preoperative PSA level, biochemical recurrence rate and survival. The median clinical follow-up was 132 months.

Conclusion: LC3b was significantly overexpressed in malignant compared to benign prostate tissue. However, positive LC3b immunoreactivity in PCa, as a marker of increased autophagy, was independently associated with a reduced disease-specific mortality.

Keywords: LC3b; autophagy; biochemical recurrence; prostate cancer; survival.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Autophagy / genetics
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 5 / metabolism
  • Beclin-1 / metabolism
  • Biomarkers, Tumor*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / genetics
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy


  • Autophagy-Related Protein 5
  • Beclin-1
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MAP1LC3B protein, human
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins