Neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC) is an aggressive form of prostate cancer that emerges as tumors become resistant to hormone therapies or, rarely, arises de novo in treatment-naïve patients. The urgent need for effective therapies against NEPC is hampered by the limited knowledge of the biology governing this lethal disease. Based on our prior observations in the transgenic adenocarcinoma of the mouse prostate (TRAMP) spontaneous prostate cancer model, in which the genetic depletion of either mast cells (MC) or the matricellular protein osteopontin (OPN) increases NEPC frequency, we tested the hypothesis that MCs can restrain NEPC through OPN production, using in vitro co-cultures between murine or human tumor cell lines and MCs, and in vivo experiments. We unveiled a role for the intracellular isoform of OPN, so far neglected compared with the secreted isoform. Mechanistically, we unraveled that the intracellular isoform of OPN promotes TNFα production in MCs via the TLR2/TLR4-MyD88 axis, specifically triggered by the encounter with NEPC cells. We found that MC-derived TNFα, in turn, hampered the growth of NEPC. We then identified the protein syndecan-1 (SDC1) as the NEPC-specific TLR2/TLR4 ligand that triggered this pathway. Interrogating published single-cell RNA-sequencing data, we validated this mechanism in a different mouse model. Translational relevance of the results was provided by in silico analyses of available human NEPC datasets and by immunofluorescence on patient-derived adenocarcinoma and NEPC lesions. Overall, our results show that MCs actively inhibit NEPC, paving the way for innovative MC-based therapies for this fatal tumor. We also highlight SDC1 as a potential biomarker for incipient NEPC.

This content is only available via PDF.
This open access article is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license.

Article PDF first page preview

Article PDF first page preview

Supplementary data