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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Oncology - Pathology - Urology

Activation of c-MET Induces a Stem-Like Phenotype in Human Prostate Cancer
Published: Monday, November 14, 2011
Author: Geert J. L. H. van Leenders et al.

by Geert J. L. H. van Leenders, Rajesh Sookhlall, Wilma J. Teubel, Corrina M. A. de Ridder, Suzanne Reneman, Andrea Sacchetti, Kees J. Vissers, Wytske van Weerden, Guido Jenster

Prostate cancer consists of secretory cells and a population of immature cells. The function of immature cells and their mutual relation with secretory cells are still poorly understood. Immature cells either have a hierarchical relation to secretory cells (stem cell model) or represent an inducible population emerging upon appropriate stimulation of differentiated cells. Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF) receptor c-MET is specifically expressed in immature prostate cells. Our objective is to determine the role of immature cells in prostate cancer by analysis of the HGF/c-MET pathway. Gene-expression profiling of DU145 prostate cancer cells stimulated with HGF revealed induction of a molecular signature associated with stem cells, characterized by up-regulation of CD49b, CD49f, CD44 and SOX9, and down-regulation of CD24 (‘stem-like signature’). We confirmed the acquisition of a stem-like phenotype by quantitative PCR, FACS analysis and Western blotting. Further, HGF led to activation of the stem cell related Notch pathway by up-regulation of its ligands Jagged-1 and Delta-like 4. Small molecules SU11274 and PHA665752 targeting c-MET activity were both able to block the molecular and biologic effects of HGF. Knock-down of c-MET by shRNA infection resulted in significant reduction and delay of orthotopic tumour-formation in male NMRI mice. Immunohistochemical analysis in prostatectomies revealed significant enrichment of c-MET positive cells at the invasive front, and demonstrated co-expression of c-MET with stem-like markers CD49b and CD49f. In conclusion, activation of c-MET in prostate cancer cells induced a stem-like phenotype, indicating a dynamic relation between differentiated and stem-like cells in this malignancy. Its mediation of efficient tumour-formation in vivo and predominant receptor expression at the invasive front implicate that c-MET regulates tumour infiltration in surrounding tissues putatively by acquisition of a stem-like phenotype.
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