Considering the dismal prognosis of castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), it is critical to identify novel therapeutic targets in this disease. Malignant cells have metabolic dependencies distinct from their healthy counterparts, resulting in therapeutic vulnerabilities. Although PTEN and TP53 are the most frequently comutated or codeleted driver genes in lethal CRPC, the metabolic dependencies underlying PTEN/p53 deficiency-driven CRPC for therapeutic intervention remain largely elusive. In this study, PTEN/p53 deficient tumors were determined to be reliant on cholesterol metabolism. Moreover, PTEN/p53 deficiency transcriptionally upregulated squalene epoxidase (SQLE) via activation of sterol regulatory element-binding protein 2 (SREBP2). In addition, PTEN deficiency enhanced the protein stability of SQLE by inhibiting the PI3K/Akt/GSK3β-mediated proteasomal pathway. Consequently, SQLE increased cholesterol biosynthesis to facilitate tumor cell growth and survival. Pharmacologic blockade of SQLE with FR194738 profoundly suppressed the invasive program of CRPC. Collectively, these results demonstrate a synergistic relationship between SQLE and PTEN/p53 deficiency in CRPC development and progression. Therefore, pharmacologic interventions targeting SQLE may hold promise for the treatment of patients with CRPC.

Significance:

This study reveals PTEN and p53 deficiency confers a dependence on SQLE-mediated cholesterol metabolism, providing insights for new therapeutic strategies for treating castration-resistant prostate cancer.

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