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Mol Cancer Res. 2011 Jul;9(7):914-24. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-10-0537. Epub 2011 Jun 13.

Abnormal expression of the ERG transcription factor in prostate cancer cells activates osteopontin.

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CNRS UMR 8161, Institut de Biologie de Lille, Lille, France.


Osteopontin (OPN) is an extracellular matrix glycophosphoprotein that plays a key role in the metastasis of a wide variety of cancers. The high level of OPN expression in prostate cells is associated with malignancy and reduced survival of the patient. Recent studies on prostate cancer (PCa) tissue have revealed recurrent genomic rearrangements involving the fusion of the 5' untranslated region of a prostate-specific androgen-responsive gene with a gene coding for transcription factors from the ETS family. The most frequently identified fusion gene is TMPRSS2:ERG, which causes ERG protein overexpression in PCa cells. ERG is a transcription factor linked to skeletogenesis. This study was designed to test whether ERG and the product of the TMPRSS2:ERG fusion gene modulate OPN gene expression in PCa cells. To characterize ERG and TMPRSS2:ERG transcriptional activity of OPN, we focused on ETS binding sites (EBS) localized in conserved regions of the promoter. Using in vitro and in vivo molecular assays, we showed that ERG increases OPN expression and binds to an EBS (nt -115 to -118) in the OPN promoter. Moreover, stable transfection of prostate tumor cell lines by TMPRSS2:ERG upregulates endogenous OPN expression. Finally, in human prostate tumor samples, detection of the TMPRSS2:ERG fusion gene was significantly associated with OPN overexpression. Taken together, these data suggest that OPN is an ERG-target gene in PCa where the abnormal expression of the transcription factor ERG, due to the TMPRSS2:ERG fusion, disturbs the expression of genes that play an important role in PCa cells and associated metastases.

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