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BMC Cancer. 2006 Jul 25;6:197.

Met-Independent Hepatocyte Growth Factor-mediated regulation of cell adhesion in human prostate cancer cells.

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Department of Urology and Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA.



Prostate cancer cells communicate reciprocally with the stromal cells surrounding them, inside the prostate, and after metastasis, within the bone. Each tissue secretes factors for interpretation by the other. One stromally-derived factor, Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF), was found twenty years ago to regulate invasion and growth of carcinoma cells. Working with the LNCaP prostate cancer progression model, we found that these cells could respond to HGF stimulation, even in the absence of Met, the only known HGF receptor. The new HGF binding partner we find on the cell surface may help to clarify conflicts in the past literature about Met expression and HGF response in cancer cells.


We searched for Met or any HGF binding partner on the cells of the PC3 and LNCaP prostate cancer cell models, using HGF immobilized on agarose beads. By using mass spectrometry analyses and sequencing we have identified nucleolin protein as a novel HGF binding partner. Antibodies against nucleolin (or HGF) were able to ameliorate the stimulatory effects of HGF on met-negative prostate cancer cells. Western blots, RT-PCR, and immunohistochemistry were used to assess nucleolin levels during prostate cancer progression in both LNCaP and PC3 models.


We have identified HGF as a major signaling component of prostate stromal-conditioned media (SCM) and have implicated the protein nucleolin in HGF signal reception by the LNCaP model prostate cancer cells. Antibodies that silence either HGF (in SCM) or nucleolin (on the cell surfaces) eliminate the adhesion-stimulatory effects of the SCM. Likewise, addition of purified HGF to control media mimics the action of SCM. C4-2, an LNCaP lineage-derived, androgen-independent human prostate cancer cell line, responds to HGF in a concentration-dependent manner by increasing its adhesion and reducing its migration on laminin substratum. These HGF effects are not due to shifts in the expression levels of laminin-binding integrins, nor can they be linked to expression of the known HGF receptor Met, as neither LNCaP nor clonally-derived C4-2 sub-line contain any detectable Met protein. Even in the absence of Met, small GTPases are activated, linking HGF stimulation to membrane protrusion and integrin activation. Membrane-localized nucelolin levels increase during cancer progression, as modeled by both the PC3 and LNCaP prostate cancer progression cell lines.


We propose that cell surface localized nucleolin protein may function in these cells as a novel HGF receptor. Membrane localized nucleolin binds heparin-bound growth factors (including HGF) and appears upregulated during prostate cancer progression. Antibodies against nucleolin are able to ameliorate the stimulatory effects of HGF on met-negative prostate cancer cells. HGF-nucleolin interactions could be partially responsible for the complexity of HGF responses and met expression reported in the literature.

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