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Clin Cancer Res. 1996 Sep;2(9):1445-51.

Prostate-specific membrane antigen: a novel folate hydrolase in human prostatic carcinoma cells.

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  • 1Nutrition Research Laboratory, Urology Research Laboratory, Pharmacology Analytical Laboratory, and George M. O'Brien Urology Research Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10021, USA.


A novel monoclonal antibody has been developed that reacts strongly with human prostatic cancer, especially tumors of high grade. This antibody (7E11C-5) is currently in Phase 3 trials as an imaging agent for metastatic disease. We have cloned the gene that encodes the antigen that is recognized by the 7E11C-5 monoclonal antibody and have designated this unique protein prostate-specific membrane (PSM) antigen. PSM antigen is a putative class II transmembranous glycoprotein exhibiting a molecular size of Mr 94,000. Functionally, class II membrane proteins serve as transport or binding proteins or have hydrolytic activity. Preliminary studies have demonstrated binding of pteroylmonoglutamate (folate) to membrane fractions that also cross-reacted with the PSM monoclonal antibody. We observed substantial carboxypeptidase activity as folate hydrolase associated with PSM antigen. The purpose of our study was to demonstrate that human prostatic carcinoma cells expressing PSM antigen exhibit folate hydrolase activity using methotrexate triglutamate (MTXGlu3) and pteroylpentaglutamate (PteGlu5) as substrates. Isolated membrane fractions from four human prostate cancer cell lines (LNCaP, PC-3, TSU-Prl, and Duke-145) were examined for folate hydrolase activity using capillary electrophoresis. After timed incubations at various pH ranges and in the presence and absence of thiol reagents, separation of pteroyl(glutamate)n derivatives was achieved with an electrolyte of sodium borate and SDS, while absorbance was monitored at 300 nm. The results demonstrate clearly that LNCaP cells, which highly express PSM, hydrolyze gamma-glutamyl linkages of MTXGlu3. The membrane-bound enzyme is an exopeptidase, because it progressively liberates glutamates from MTXGlu3 and PteGlu5 with accumulation of MTX and PteGlu1, respectively. The semipurified enzyme has a broad activity from pH 2.5 to 9.5 and exhibits activity maxima at pH 5 and 8. Enzymatic activity is maintained in the presence of reduced glutathione, homocysteine, and p-hydroxymercuribenzoate (0.05-0.5 mm) but was inhibited weakly by DTT (>/=0.2 mm). By contrast to LNCaP cell membranes, membranes isolated from other human prostate adenocarcinoma cells (PC-3, Duke-145, and TSU-Pr1) did not exhibit comparable hydrolase activity, nor did they react with 7E11-C5 monoclonal antibody. After transfection of PC-3 cells with a full-length 2.65-kb PSM cDNA subcloned into a pREP7 eukaryotic expression vector, non-PSM antigen-expressing PC-3 cells developed immunoreactivity to 7E11-C5 monoclonal antibody and demonstrated folate hydrolase activities and optimum pH activity profiles identical to those of LNCaP cells. The membrane-bound enzymes from both LNCaP- and PC-3-transfected cells also have a capacity to hydrolyze an alpha-linked glutamyl moiety from N-acetyl-alpha-aspartylglutamate. We have identified that PSM antigen is a pteroyl poly-gamma-glutamyl carboxypeptidase (folate hydrolase) and is expressed strongly in human prostate cancer. Cancer cells that express this enzyme are resistant to methotrexate therapy. Those developing future therapeutic strategies in the treatment of prostate cancer that utilize folate antagonists need to consider this mechanism of resistance.

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