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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Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0026753, hdl.handle.net/1765/34646
Citation
Leenders, G.J., Sookhlall, R., Teubel, W.J., Ridder, C.M.A., Reneman, S., Sacchetti, A., … Jenster, G.W.. (2011). Activation of c-MET induces a Stem-Like phenotype in human prostate cancer. PLoS ONE, 6(11). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026753