Osteoblasts Promote Prostate Cancer Cell Proliferation Through Androgen Receptor Independent Mechanisms

Front Oncol. 2021 Dec 13:11:789885. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2021.789885. eCollection 2021.


Patients with metastatic prostate cancer frequently develop bone metastases that elicit significant skeletal morbidity and increased mortality. The high tropism of prostate cancer cells for bone and their tendency to induce the osteoblastic-like phenotype are a result of a complex interplay between tumor cells and osteoblasts. Although the role of osteoblasts in supporting prostate cancer cell proliferation has been reported by previous studies, their precise contribution in tumor growth remains to be fully elucidated. Here, we tried to dissect the molecular signaling underlining the interactions between castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) cells and osteoblasts using in vitro co-culture models. Transcriptomic analysis showed that osteoblast-conditioned media (OCM) induced the overexpression of genes related to cell cycle in the CRPC cell line C4-2B but, surprisingly, reduced androgen receptor (AR) transcript levels. In-depth analysis of AR expression in C4-2B cells after OCM treatment showed an AR reduction at the mRNA (p = 0.0047), protein (p = 0.0247), and functional level (p = 0.0029) and, concomitantly, an increase of C4-2B cells in S-G2-M cell cycle phases (p = 0.0185). An extensive proteomic analysis revealed in OCM the presence of some molecules that reduced AR activation, and among these, Matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) was the only one able to block AR function (0.1 ng/ml p = 0.006; 1 ng/ml p = 0.002; 10 ng/ml p = 0.0001) and, at the same time, enhance CRPC proliferation (1 ng/ml p = 0.009; 10 ng/ml p = 0.033). Although the increase of C4-2B cell growth induced by MMP-1 did not reach the proliferation levels observed after OCM treatment, the addition of Vorapaxar, an MMP-1 receptor inhibitor (Protease-activated receptor-1, PAR-1), significantly reduced C4-2B cell cycle (0.1 μM p = 0.014; 1 μM p = 0.0087). Overall, our results provide a novel AR-independent mechanism of CRPC proliferation and suggest that MMP-1/PAR-1 could be one of the potential pathways involved in this process.

Keywords: androgen receptor; bone microenvironment; castration resistance prostate cancer; matrix metalloproteinase-1; osteoblasts.