Prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a Mr 34,000 serine protease, is recognized as a useful marker for the detection and prognosis of patients with prostate cancer. Although serum PSA is an excellent prognostic indicator, an increasing number of factors were found to regulate the PSA expression of prostatic cancer cells, which include androgenic steroids, the growth factors (GFs) and the extracellular matrix. The purpose of this study is to define a novel protein factor that may be responsible for regulating PSA expression by androgen-independent (AI) human prostate cancer cells. We have established a LNCaP subline (C4) from a parental LNCaP tumor grown in a castrated host. The C4 subline overexpressed PSA mRNA and protein. Serum-free conditioned medium (CM) isolated from the C4 subline is able to stimulate PSA gene expression in parental LNCaP cells in a concentration-dependent manner. This autocrine PSA-inducing activity was found to be organ specific because CMs from other fibroblast cell lines (such as bone, prostate, kidney, and lung fibroblasts) and the CMs from several prostatic carcinoma cell lines (such as parental LNCaP, PC-3, DU-145) and a bladder transitional carcinoma cell line (WH) fall to exhibit similar activity. The activity of the CM from the C4 subline cannot be substituted by GFs such as TGF-α, TGF-β, bFGF, HGF, KGF, or NGF; neuropeptide (bombesin/GRP); secondary messenger analogue (dibutyryl cAMP); β2-adrenergic agonist (isoproterenol); or α1-adrenergic agonist (phenylephrine), indicating that the factor(s) may be a novel prostate-specific autocrine factor (PSAF). Both androgen and PSAF exhibit an additive effect on up-regulating PSA gene expression, suggesting that the signal transduction pathway elicited by PSAF may differ from that mediated by the androgen receptor. Further characterization of PSAF by heat, acid, and trypsin digestion revealed that the PSAF may be a protein factor with a unique amino acid composition. These observations suggest that a novel autocrine pathway mediated by PSAF may be responsible for the overexpression of PSA mRNA and protein in a human prostatic cancer cell line. The potential clinical significance of this factor will be discussed.

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This work was supported by Grants CA 59939 and CA 56307.

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