Androgen-Sensitized Apoptosis of HPr-1AR Human Prostate Epithelial Cells

Androgen receptor (AR) signaling is crucial to the development and homeostasis of the prostate gland, and its dysregulation mediates common prostate pathologies. The mechanisms whereby AR regulates growth suppression and differentiation of luminal epithelial cells in the prostate gland and proliferation of malignant versions of these cells have been investigated in human and rodent adult prostate. However, the cellular stress response of human prostate epithelial cells is not well understood, though it is central to prostate health and pathology. Here, we report that androgen sensitizes HPr-1AR and RWPE-AR human prostate epithelial cells to cell stress agents and apoptotic cell death. Although 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) treatment alone did not induce cell death, co-treatment of HPr-1AR cells with DHT and an apoptosis inducer, such as staurosporine (STS), TNFt, or hydrogen peroxide, synergistically increased cell death in comparison to treatment with each apoptosis inducer by itself. We found that the synergy between DHT and apoptosis inducer led to activation of the intrinsic/mitochondrial apoptotic pathway, which is supported by robust cleavage activation of caspase-9 and caspase-3. Further, the dramatic depolarization of the mitochondrial membrane potential that we observed upon co-treatment with DHT and STS is consistent with increased mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP) in the pro-apoptotic mechanism. Interestingly, the synergy between DHT and apoptosis inducer was abolished by AR antagonists and inhibitors of transcription and protein synthesis, suggesting that AR mediates pro-apoptotic synergy through transcriptional regulation of MOMP genes. Expression analysis revealed that pro-apoptotic genes (BCL2L11/BIM and AIFM2) were DHT-induced, whereas pro-survival genes (BCL2L1/BCL-XL and MCL1) were DHT-repressed. Hence, we propose that the net effect of these AR-mediated expression changes shifts the balance of BCL2-family proteins, such that androgen signaling sensitizes mitochondria to apoptotic signaling, thus rendering HPr-1AR more vulnerable to cell death signals. Our study offers insight into AR-mediated regulation of prostate epithelial cell death signaling.

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