Fusion of the androgen receptor-regulated (AR-regulated) TMPRSS2 gene with ERG in prostate cancer (PCa) causes androgen-stimulated overexpression of ERG, an ETS transcription factor, but critical downstream effectors of ERG-mediating PCa development remain to be established. Expression of the SOX9 transcription factor correlated with TMPRSS2:ERG fusion in 3 independent PCa cohorts, and ERG-dependent expression of SOX9 was confirmed by RNAi in the fusion-positive VCaP cell line. SOX9 has been shown to mediate ductal morphogenesis in fetal prostate and maintain stem/progenitor cell pools in multiple adult tissues, and has also been linked to PCa and other cancers. SOX9 overexpression resulted in neoplasia in murine prostate and stimulated tumor invasion, similarly to ERG. Moreover, SOX9 depletion in VCaP cells markedly impaired invasion and growth in vitro and in vivo, establishing SOX9 as a critical downstream effector of ERG. Finally, we found that ERG regulated SOX9 indirectly by opening a cryptic AR-regulated enhancer in the SOX9 gene. Together, these results demonstrate that ERG redirects AR to a set of genes including SOX9 that are not normally androgen stimulated, and identify SOX9 as a critical downstream effector of ERG in TMPRSS2:ERG fusion–positive PCa.
Changmeng Cai, Hongyun Wang, Housheng Hansen He, Sen Chen, Lingfeng He, Fen Ma, Lorelei Mucci, Qianben Wang, Christopher Fiore, Adam G. Sowalsky, Massimo Loda, X. Shirley Liu, Myles Brown, Steven P. Balk, Xin Yuan
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