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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 8, 2022
  2. Saleem, M. (Ed.)
    NKX3.1’s downregulation is strongly associated with prostate cancer (PCa) initiation, progression, and CRPC development. Nevertheless, a clear disagreement exists between NKX3.1 protein and mRNA levels in PCa tissues, indicating that its regulation at a post-translational level plays a vital role. This study identified a strong negative relationship between NKX3.1 and LIMK2, which is critical in CRPC pathogenesis. We identified that NKX3.1 degradation by direct phosphorylation by LIMK2 is crucial for promoting oncogenicity in CRPC cells and in vivo. LIMK2 also downregulates NKX3.1 mRNA levels. In return, NKX3.1 promotes LIMK2’s ubiquitylation. Thus, the negative crosstalk between LIMK2-NKX3.1 regulates AR, ARv7, andmore »AKT signaling, promoting aggressive phenotypes. We also provide a new link between NKX3.1 and PTEN, both of which are downregulated by LIMK2. PTEN loss is strongly linked with NKX3.1 downregulation. As NKX3.1 is a prostate-specific tumor suppressor, preserving its levels by LIMK2 inhibition provides a tremendous opportunity for developing targeted therapy in CRPC. Further, as NKX3.1 downregulates AR transcription and inhibits AKT signaling, restoring its levels by inhibiting LIMK2 is expected to be especially beneficial by co-targeting two driver pathways in tandem, a highly desirable requisite for developing effective PCa therapeutics.« less
  3. SPOP, an adaptor protein for E3 ubiquitin ligase can function as a tumor-suppressor or a tumor-enhancer. In castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), it inhibits tumorigenesis by degrading many oncogenic targets, including androgen receptor (AR). Expectedly, SPOP is the most commonly mutated gene in CRPC (15%), which closely correlates with poor prognosis. Importantly, 85% of tumors that retain wild-type SPOP show reduced protein levels, indicating that SPOP downregulation is an essential step in CRPC progression. However, the underlying molecular mechanism remains unknown. This study uncovered the first mechanism of SPOP regulation in any type of cancer. We identified SPOP as a directmore »substrate of Aurora A (AURKA) using an innovative technique. AURKA directly phosphorylates SPOP at three sites, causing its ubiquitylation. SPOP degradation drives highly aggressive oncogenic phenotypes in cells and in vivo including stabilizing AR, ARv7 and c-Myc. Further, SPOP degrades AURKA via a feedback loop. SPOP upregulation is one of the mechanisms by which enzalutamide exerts its efficacy. Consequently, phospho-resistant SPOP fully abrogates tumorigenesis and EMT in vivo, and renders CRPC cells sensitive to enzalutamide. While genomic mutations of SPOP can be treated with gene therapy, identification of AURKA as an upstream regulator of SPOP provides a powerful opportunity for retaining WT-SPOP in a vast majority of CRPC patients using AURKA inhibitors ± enzalutamide, thereby treating the disease and inhibiting its progression.« less
  4. Multifunctional protein YBX1 upregulation promotes castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). However, YBX1 protein abundance, but not its DNA status or mRNA levels, predicts CRPC recurrence, although the mechanism remains unknown. Similarly, the mechanism by which YBX1 regulates androgen receptor (AR) signaling remains unclear. We uncovered the first molecular mechanism of YBX1 upregulation at a post-translational level. YBX1 was identified as an Aurora Kinase-A (AURKA) substrate using a chemical screen. AURKA phosphorylates YBX1 at two key residues, which stabilizes it and promotes its nuclear translocation. YBX1 reciprocates and stabilizes AURKA, thereby initiating a synergistic loop. Notably, phospho-resistant YBX1 is dominant-negative and fullymore »inhibits epithelial to mesenchymal transition, chemoresistance, drug-resistance and tumorigenesis in vivo. Unexpectedly, we further observed that YBX1 upregulates AR post-translationally by preventing its ubiquitylation, but not by increasing its transcription as reported before. Uncovering YBX1-mediated AR stabilization is highly significant due to AR’s critical role in both androgen-sensitive prostate cancer and CRPC. As YBX1 inhibitors are unknown, AURKA inhibitors provide a potent tool to degrade both YBX1 and AR simultaneously. Finally, this is the first study to show a reciprocal loop between YBX1 and its kinase, indicating that their concomitant inhibition will be act synergistically for CRPC therapy.« less