Transcriptional regulation of the androgen signaling pathway by the Wilms' tumor suppressor gene WT1

A Zaia, G C Fraizer, L Piantanelli, G F Saunders
Anticancer Research 2001, 21 (1): 1-10
The androgen-signaling pathway plays a critical role in prostate cancer development and progression. We have recently demonstrated that the Wilms' tumor suppressor gene product, WT1, binds to multiple sites in the androgen receptor (AR) promoter and transcriptionally represses the AR gene promoter in vitro. We asked whether WT1 repression of the endogenous AR gene interferes in the androgen signal transduction cascade and modifies AR target gene expression. We analyzed the effect of WT1 (-/-) overexpression on an AR target gene reporter construct that contains the luciferase gene, the ElB TATA box, and two copies of the androgen-response element (ARE), the dimeric AR binding site. Luciferase activity was determined in 293 kidney and TM4 Sertoli cells, two nontumorigenic cell lines that express both AR and WT1. Cells were cotransfected by lipofectamine in the presence or absence of the synthetic androgen R1881. Results showed that overexpression of WT1 downregulates ARE-reporter gene transcription in both cell lines tested. The inhibitory effect of WT1 on the AR target gene construct was dose-dependent and androgen-independent in 293 cells, whereas in TM4 cells it was androgen-dependent. Additionally, a zinc-finger mutant WT1 (-/-) expression construct, R394W, failed to decrease luciferase activity, suggesting that WT1 downregulates the ARE-reporter gene construct activity by directly repressing the endogenous AR gene promoter. Furthermore, we analyzed the expression of WT1 and AR mRNA in several prostate cancer cell lines in order to understand the role WT1 may play in prostate cancer development and progression. Gel analysis of cDNA amplified by RT-PCR of AR and WT1 RNA from prostate cancer and non-prostatic cell lines showed that LNCaP and MDAPCa2b, two metastatic prostate cancer cell lines which are androgen-sensitive, expressed AR but not WT1. Du145 and PC3, two cell lines from advanced metastatic prostate cancer, which are characterized as androgen-independent and -insensitive, did not express AR but expressed a high level of WT1. Two non-prostatic cell lines, T47D and 293, weakly co-expressed AR and WT1. This inverse relationship between AR and WT1 expression in prostate cancer cell lines, together with WT1 repression of the AR promoter, suggest a role for WT1 in the androgen signaling pathway and in prostate cancer development and progression.

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