Neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC) is an aggressive malignancy with no effective targeted therapies. The oncogenic MUC1-C protein is overexpressed in castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) and NEPC, but its specific role is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that upregulation of MUC1-C in androgen-dependent PC cells suppresses androgen receptor (AR) axis signaling and induces the neural BRN2 transcription factor. MUC1-C activates a MYC→BRN2 pathway in association with induction of MYCN, EZH2 and NE differentiation markers (ASCL1, AURKA and SYP) linked to NEPC progression. Moreover, MUC1-C suppresses the p53 pathway, induces the Yamanaka pluripotency factors (OCT4, SOX2, KLF4 and MYC) and drives stemness. Targeting MUC1-C decreases PC self-renewal capacity and tumorigenicity, suggesting a potential therapeutic approach for CRPC and NEPC. In PC tissues, MUC1 expression associates with suppression of AR signaling and increases in BRN2 expression and NEPC score. These results highlight MUC1-C as a master effector of lineage plasticity driving progression to NEPC.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Physics and Astronomy
- General Chemistry
- General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology