Interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels are frequently elevated in sera of patients with metastatic prostate cancer. IL-6 receptors are expressed in prostate cancer cell lines, as well as in benign prostate hyperplasia and prostate cancer tissue specimens. The androgen receptor (AR) is a key transcription factor that is present in all stages of prostate carcinoma, even in therapy-refractory tumors. In an attempt to investigate possible cross-talk between IL-6 and androgen signal transduction cascades, we tested the effects of this cytokine on AR transcriptional activity. The regulation of AR activity by IL-6 was studied in DU-145 cells, which were cotransfected with the androgen-responsive reporter plasmid ARE2TATACAT and the AR expression vector pSG5AR. We show that IL-6 up-regulates AR activity in a ligand-independent manner, as well as synergistically, with very low doses of the synthetic androgen methyltrienolone (5–10 pm). Therefore, AR activation by IL-6 may be operative in prostate cancer patients who have decreased androgen levels because of androgen ablation therapy. The maximal induction of reporter gene activity by IL-6 alone (50 ng/ml) was 67% of that stimulated by 1 nm of methyltrienolone. The nonsteroidal antiandrogen bicalutamide (Casodex) nearly completely inhibited AR activation by IL-6. IL-6 effects on AR activity were also abolished or greatly reduced by inhibitors of protein kinase A and C and mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways. In concordance with the results obtained in DU-145 cells, IL-6 induced AR-regulated prostate-specific antigen mRNA and protein in LNCaP cells. Stimulation of prostate-specific antigen protein secretion by IL-6 was antagonized by bicalutamide and inhibitors of protein kinase A and mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathways. Taken together, our data show for the first time that IL-6 is a nonsteroidal activator of the AR and that this activation is implicated in the regulation of prostate-specific proteins. Keeping in mind that IL-6, its receptor, and the AR are expressed in prostate cancers, cross-talk between IL-6 and AR signaling pathways may have clinical significance.

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Supported by Grant FWF SFB 002-F 203 from the Austrian Science Foundation.

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