Serine/threonine kinase 3 (STK3) is an essential member of the highly conserved Hippo tumor suppressor pathway that regulates Yes-associated protein 1 (YAP1) and TAZ. STK3 and its paralog STK4 initiate a phosphorylation cascade that regulates YAP1/TAZ inhibition and degradation, which is important for regulated cell growth and organ size. Deregulation of this pathway leads to hyperactivation of YAP1 in various cancers. Counter to the canonical tumor suppression role of STK3, we report that in the context of prostate cancer (PC), STK3 has a pro-tumorigenic role. Our investigation started with the observation that STK3, but not STK4, is frequently amplified in PC. Additionally, high STK3 expression is associated with decreased overall survival and positively correlates with androgen receptor (AR) activity in metastatic castrate-resistant PC. XMU-MP-1, an STK3/4 inhibitor, slowed cell proliferation, spheroid growth, and Matrigel invasion in multiple models. Genetic depletion of STK3 decreased proliferation in several PC cell lines. In a syngeneic allograft model, STK3 loss slowed tumor growth kinetics in vivo, and biochemical analysis suggests a mitotic growth arrest phenotype. To further probe the role of STK3 in PC, we identified and validated a new set of selective STK3 inhibitors, with enhanced kinase selectivity relative to XMU-MP-1, that inhibited tumor spheroid growth and invasion. Consistent with the canonical role, inhibition of STK3 induced cardiomyocyte growth and had chemoprotective effects. Our results indicate that STK3 has a non-canonical role in PC progression and that inhibition of STK3 may have a therapeutic potential for PC that merits further investigation.
Keywords: Hippo tumor suppressor; STK3; kinase inhibitor; non-canonical; prostate cancer.
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