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Am J Pathol. 2012 Mar;180(3):895-903. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2011.11.030. Epub 2012 Jan 11.

Integrative molecular profiling reveals asparagine synthetase is a target in castration-resistant prostate cancer.

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Department of Pathology, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


The identification of new and effective therapeutic targets for the lethal, castration-resistant stage of prostate cancer (CRPC) has been challenging because of both the paucity of adequate frozen tissues and a lack of integrated molecular analysis. Therefore, in this study, we performed a genome-wide analysis of DNA copy number alterations from 34 unique surgical CRPC specimens and 5 xenografts, with matched transcriptomic profiling of 25 specimens. An integrated analysis of these data revealed that the asparagine synthetase (ASNS) gene showed a gain in copy number and was overexpressed at the transcript level. The overexpression of ASNS was validated by analyzing other public CRPC data sets. ASNS protein expression, as detected by reverse-phase protein lysate array, was tightly correlated with gene copy number. In addition, ASNS protein expression, as determined by IHC analysis, was associated with progression to a therapy-resistant disease state in TMAs that included 77 castration-resistant and 40 untreated prostate cancer patient samples. Knockdown of ASNS by small-interfering RNAs in asparagine-deprived media led to growth inhibition in both androgen-responsive (ie, LNCaP) and castration-resistant (ie, C4-2B) prostate cancer cell lines and in cells isolated from a CRPC xenograft (ie, MDA PCa 180-30). Together, our results suggest that ASNS is up-regulated in cases of CRPC and that depletion of asparagine using ASNS inhibitors will be a novel strategy for targeting CRPC cells.

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