Interleukin (IL)-6 plays a significant role in genitourinary carcinomas. The present study was conducted to define the role of IL-6 in the growth of prostatic carcinoma and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). An in vitro experiment was carried out using human prostatic carcinoma cell lines (LNCaP, which is androgen sensitive and slow growing, and DU145 and PC3, which are androgen insensitive and fast growing), and primary human epithelial and stromal cells derived from BPH. Cells were treated with recombinant human IL-6 or conditioned medium (CM) derived from the above cultured cells to identify possible paracrine and autocrine pathways. LNCaP was clearly responsive to exogenous IL-6 and to the CM derived from stromal cells, but not to the CM from LNCaP cells (P < 0.001). DU145 and PC3 were slightly stimulated to grow by exogenous IL-6 and the CM derived from both stromal and respective homologous cells (P < 0.01). In contrast, BPH-derived epithelial cells showed little or no response to IL-6. The stimulatory effect of CM on prostatic carcinoma cells was significantly reduced by the addition of anti-IL-6 antibody to the culture medium. Furthermore, the growth of DU145 and PC3 in serum-free medium was also inhibited by anti-IL-6 antibody (P < 0.001). All cell lines tested, except for LNCaP, secreted IL-6 into the culture medium. Results of reverse transcriptase-PCR analysis indicated that IL-6 receptor mRNA was present in all carcinoma cell lines but not in epithelial cells or stromal cells derived from BPH. These results suggest that IL-6 functions as a paracrine growth factor for LNCaP and as an autocrine growth factor for DU145 and PC3, but it has no stimulatory effect on epithelial cells derived from BPH.

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This study was supported by NIH Grants CA14649, CA33511, and CA69851, the Joseph L. Mayberry Sr. Endowment Research Fund, and Northwestern University Medical Faculty Foundation Research Funds.

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