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J Biol Chem. 2012 Nov 16;287(47):39954-66. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.395574. Epub 2012 Sep 25.

Targeting the unique methylation pattern of androgen receptor (AR) promoter in prostate stem/progenitor cells with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-AZA) leads to suppressed prostate tumorigenesis.

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  • 1Chawnshang Chang Sex Hormone Research Center, Tianjin Institute of Urology, Tianjin Medical University, Tianjin 300211, China.


Androgen receptor (AR) expression surveys found that normal prostate/prostate cancer (PCa) stem/progenitor cells, but not embryonic or mesenchymal stem cells, expressed little AR with high methylation in the AR promoter. Mechanism dissection revealed that the differential methylation pattern in the AR promoter could be due to differential expression of methyltransferases and binding of methylation binding protein to the AR promoter region. The low expression of AR in normal prostate/PCa stem/progenitor cells was reversed after adding 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine, a demethylating agent, which could then lead to decreased stemness and drive cells into a more differentiated status, suggesting that the methylation in the AR promoter of prostate stem/progenitor cells is critical not only in maintaining the stemness but also critical in protection of cells from differentiation. Furthermore, induced AR expression, via alteration of its methylation pattern, led to suppression of the self-renewal/proliferation of prostate stem/progenitor cells and PCa tumorigenesis in both in vitro assays and in vivo orthotopic xenografted mouse studies. Taken together, these data prove the unique methylation pattern of AR promoter in normal prostate/PCa stem/progenitor cells and the influence of AR on their renewal/proliferation and differentiation. Targeting PCa stem/progenitor cells with alteration of methylated AR promoter status might provide a new potential therapeutic approach to battle PCa because the PCa stem/progenitor cells have high tumorigenicity.

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