Thesis: Functional study of oncogenic transcription factor ERG and its signaling in prostate cancer
Research Scientist Santosh Gupta defended his thesis “Functional Study of Oncogenic Transcription Factor ERG and its Signaling in Prostate Cancer” at University of Turku on 27th July, 2011. The work deepens our understanding on the complex oncogenic mechanisms of ERG in prostate cancer that may help in developing drugs against TMPRSS2-ERG positive tumors.
TMPRSS2–ERG is the most frequent type of genomic rearrangement present in prostate tumors, in which the 5- prime region of the TMPRSS2 gene is fused to the ERG oncogene. TMPRSS2, containing androgen response elements (AREs), is regulated by androgens in the prostate. The truncated TMPRSS2-ERG fusion transcript is overexpressed in half of the prostate cancer patients. The formation of TMPRSS2-ERG transcript is an early event in prostate carcinogenesis and previous in vivo and in vitro studies have shown ectopic ERG expression to be associated with increased cell invasion.
However, the molecular function of ERG and its role in cell signaling is poorly understood. In this study, genomic rearrangement of ERG with TMPRSS2 was studied by using comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) in prostate cancer samples. The biological processes associated with the ERG oncogene expression in prostate epithelial cells were studied, and the results were compared with findings observed in clinical prostate tumor samples. The gene expression data indicated that increased WNT signaling and loss of cell adhesion were a characteristic of TMPRSS2-ERG fusion positive prostate tumor samples.
Up-regulation of WNT pathway genes were present in ERG positive prostate tumors, with frizzled receptor 4 (FZD4) presenting with the highest association with ERG overexpression, as verified by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR, immunostaining, and immunoblotting in TMPRSS2-ERG positive VCaP prostate cancer cells.
Furthermore, ERG and FZD4 silencing increased cell adhesion by inducing active β1-integrin and E-cadherin expression in VCaP cells. Furthermore, we found a novel inhibitor, 4-(chloromethyl) benzoyl chloride which inhibited the WNT signaling and induced similar phenotypic effects as observed after ERG or FZD4 down regulation in VCaP cells.
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