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Cell Cycle. 2006 Aug;5(16):1886-901. Epub 2006 Aug 15.

Essential role for activation of the Polycomb group (PcG) protein chromatin silencing pathway in metastatic prostate cancer.

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Translational and Functional Genomics Laboratory, Ordway Cancer Center, Ordway Research Institute, Inc., Center for Medical Sciences, Albany, New York 12208, USA.


The Polycomb group (PcG) gene BMI1 is required for the proliferation and self-renewal of normal and leukemic stem cells. Overexpression of Bmi1 oncogene causes neoplastic transformation of lymphocytes and plays essential role in pathogenesis of myeloid leukemia. Another PcG protein, Ezh2, was implicated in metastatic prostate and breast cancers, suggesting that PcG pathway activation is relevant for epithelial malignancies. Whether an oncogenic role of the BMI1 and PcG pathway activation may be extended beyond the leukemia and may affect progression of solid tumors as well remains unknown. Here we demonstrate that activation of the BMI1 oncogene-associated PcG pathway plays an essential role in metastatic prostate cancer, thus mechanistically linking the pathogenesis of leukemia, self-renewal of stem cells, and prostate cancer metastasis. To characterize the functional status of the PcG pathway in metastatic prostate cancer, we utilized advanced cell- and whole animal-imaging technologies, gene and protein expression profiling, stable siRNA-gene targeting, and tissue microarray (TMA) analysis in relevant experimental and clinical settings. We demonstrate that in multiple experimental models of metastatic prostate cancer both BMI1 and Ezh2 genes are amplified and gene amplification is associated with increased expression of corresponding mRNAs and proteins. For the first time, we provide images of human prostate carcinoma metastasis precursor cells isolated from blood and shown to overexpress both BMI1 and Ezh2 oncoproteins. Consistent with the PcG pathway activation hypothesis, increased BMI1 and Ezh2 expression in metastatic cancer cells is associated with elevated levels of H2AubiK119 and H3metK27 histones. Quantitative immunofluorescence colocalization analysis and expression profiling experiments documented increased BMI1 and Ezh2 expression in clinical prostate carcinoma samples and demonstrated that high levels of BMI1 and Ezh2 expression are associated with markedly increased likelihood of therapy failure and disease relapse after radical prostatectomy. Gene-silencing analysis reveals that activation of the PcG pathway is mechanistically linked with highly malignant behavior of human prostate carcinoma cells and is essential for in vivo growth and metastasis of human prostate cancer. We conclude that the results of experimental and clinical analyses indicate the important biological role of the PcG pathway activation in metastatic prostate cancer. Our work suggests that the PcG pathway activation is a common oncogenic event in pathogenesis of metastatic solid tumors and provides justification for development of small molecule inhibitors of the PcG chromatin silencing pathway as a novel therapeutic modality for treatment of metastatic prostate cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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