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PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e21319. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021319. Epub 2011 Jun 24.

Role of TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusion in negative regulation of PSMA expression.

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Department of Cancer Biology, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, United States of America.


Prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA) is overexpressed in prostatic adenocarcinoma (CaP), and its expression is negatively regulated by androgen stimulation. However, it is still unclear which factors are involved in this downregulation. TMPRSS2-ERG fusion is the most common known gene rearrangement in prostate carcinoma. Androgen stimulation can increase expression of the TMPRSS2-ERG fusion in fusion positive prostate cancer cells. The purpose of this investigation is to determine whether PSMA expression can be regulated by the TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusion. We employed two PSMA positive cell lines: VCaP cells, which harbor TMPRSS2-ERG fusion, and LNCaP cells, which lack the fusion. After 24 hours of androgen treatment, TMPRSS2-ERG mRNA level was increased in VCaP cells. PSMA mRNA level was dramatically decreased in VCaP cells, while it only has moderate change in LNCaP cells. Treatment with the androgen antagonist flutamide partially restored PSMA expression in androgen-treated VCaP cells. Knocking down ERG by siRNA in VCaP cells enhances PSMA expression both in the presence and absence of synthetic androgen R1881. Overexpressing TMPRSS2-ERG fusions in LNCaP cells downregulated PSMA both in the presence or absence of R1881, while overexpressing wild type ERG did not. Using PSMA-based luciferase reporter assays, we found TMPRSS2-ERG fusion can inhibit PSMA activity at the transcriptional level. Our data indicated that downregulation of PSMA in androgen-treated VCaP cells appears partially mediated by TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusion.

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