BACKGROUND: Neuroendocrine (NE) differentiation in prostate cancer (PCa) is an aggressive phenotype associated with therapy resistance. The complete phenotype of these cells is poorly understood. Clinical classification is based predominantly on the expression of standard NE markers. METHODS: We analyzed the phenotype of NE carcinoma of the prostate utilizing in vitro methods, in silico, and immunohistochemical analyses of human disease. RESULTS: LNCaP cells, subjected to a variety of stressors (0.1% [v/v] fetal bovine serum, cyclic AMP) induced a reproducible phenotype consistent with neuronal trans-differentiation. Cells developed long cytoplasmic processes resembling neurons. As expected, serum deprived cells had decreased expression in androgen receptor and prostate specific antigen. A significant increase in neuronal markers also was observed. Gene array analysis demonstrated that LNCaP cells subjected to low serum or cAMP showed statistically significant manifestation of a human brain gene expression signature. In an in silico experiment using human data, we identified that only hormone resistant metastatic prostate cancer showed enrichment of the “brain profile.” Gene ontology analysis demonstrated categories involved in neuronal differentiation. Three neuronal markers were validated in a large human tissue cohort. CONCLUSION: This study proposes that the later stages of PCa evolution involves neuronal trans-differentiation, which would enable PCa cells to acquire independence from the neural axis, critical in primary tumors. Prostate 76:1312–1325, 2016.
- neuronal trans-differentiation
- prostate cancer
- resistance phenotype
- small cell
ASJC Scopus subject areas