MAPK4 promotes prostate cancer by concerted activation of androgen receptor and AKT

J Clin Invest. 2021 Feb 15;131(4):e135465. doi: 10.1172/JCI135465.


Prostate cancer (PCa) is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. Androgen receptor (AR) signaling is essential for PCa cell growth/survival and remains a key therapeutic target for lethal castration-resistant PCa (CRPC). GATA2 is a pioneer transcription factor crucial for inducing AR expression/activation. We recently reported that MAPK4, an atypical MAPK, promotes tumor progression via noncanonical activation of AKT. Here, we demonstrated that MAPK4 activated AR by enhancing GATA2 transcriptional expression and stabilizing GATA2 protein through repression of GATA2 ubiquitination/degradation. MAPK4 expression correlated with AR activation in human CRPC. Concerted activation of both GATA2/AR and AKT by MAPK4 promoted PCa cell proliferation, anchorage-independent growth, xenograft growth, and castration resistance. Conversely, knockdown of MAPK4 decreased activation of both AR and AKT and inhibited PCa cell and xenograft growth, including castration-resistant growth. Both GATA2/AR and AKT activation were necessary for MAPK4 tumor-promoting activity. Interestingly, combined overexpression of GATA2 plus a constitutively activated AKT was sufficient to drive PCa growth and castration resistance, shedding light on an alternative, MAPK4-independent tumor-promoting pathway in human PCa. We concluded that MAPK4 promotes PCa growth and castration resistance by cooperating parallel pathways of activating GATA2/AR and AKT and that MAPK4 is a novel therapeutic target in PCa, especially CRPC.

Keywords: Oncology; Prostate cancer.