Background: The molecular and cellular mechanisms that drive castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) remain poorly understood. LSCmed cells defines an FACS-enriched population of castration-tolerant luminal progenitor cells that has been proposed to promote tumorigenesis and CRPC in Pten-deficient mice. The goals of this study were to assess the relevance of LSCmed cells through the analysis of their molecular proximity with luminal progenitor-like cell clusters identified by single-cell (sc)RNA-seq analyses of mouse and human prostates, and to investigate their regulation by in silico-predicted growth factors present in the prostatic microenvironment. Methods: Several bioinformatic pipelines were used for pan-transcriptomic analyses. LSCmed cells isolated by cell sorting from healthy and malignant mouse prostates were characterized using RT-qPCR, immunofluorescence and organoid assays. Results: LSCmed cells match (i) mouse luminal progenitor cell clusters identified in scRNA-seq analyses for which we provide a common 15-gene signature including the previously identified LSCmed marker Krt4, and (ii) Club/Hillock cells of the human prostate. This transcriptional overlap was maintained in cancer contexts. EGFR/ERBB4, IGF-1R and MET pathways were identified as autocrine/paracrine regulators of progenitor, proliferation and differentiation properties of LSCmed cells. The functional redundancy of these signaling pathways allows them to bypass the effect of receptor-targeted pharmacological inhibitors. Conclusions: Based on transcriptomic profile and pharmacological resistance to monotherapies that failed in CRPC patients, this study supports LSCmed cells as a relevant model to investigate the role of castration-tolerant progenitor cells in human prostate cancer progression.
Keywords: CRPC; Club/Hillock cells; EGFR; IGF1-R; LSCmed; MET; drug resistance; luminal progenitor; organoid; signature.