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Cell Signal. 2011 Sep;23(9):1466-72. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2011.04.008. Epub 2011 Apr 28.

AMPK-mediated autophagy is a survival mechanism in androgen-dependent prostate cancer cells subjected to androgen deprivation and hypoxia.

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Department of Cancer Prevention and Control, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA.


The present study was designed to investigate (i) the role of AMPK activation in inducing autophagy in androgen-dependent prostate cancer cells subjected to androgen deprivation and hypoxia, and (ii) whether autophagy offers a survival advantage under these harsh conditions. Low androgen and low oxygen are two co-existing conditions frequently found in prostate cancer tissue following surgical or medical castration. In LNCaP cells, androgen deprivation and hypoxia together boosted AMPK activation to a higher level than that seen with either condition alone. The augmented AMPK response was associated with improved viability and the induction of autophagy. These observations suggest that a threshold of AMPK activity has to be attained in order to trigger autophagy, since neither androgen deprivation nor hypoxia by itself was capable of pushing AMPK activity past that threshold. Beclin-1 was identified as a potential downstream target of AMPK in turning on the autophagic cascade. If autophagy was blocked by chemical inhibition or RNA interference of key regulators, e.g., AMPK or beclin-1, more cells would die by apoptosis. The occurrence of autophagy is thus a survival mechanism for androgen-dependent prostate cancer cells to escape from an androgen-deprived and hypoxic subsistence.

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