NKX3.1 is a prostate-specific homeoprotein and tumor suppressor that is affected by the loss of 8p21 in prostate cancer. In mice, Nkx3.1 haploinsufficiency results in prostatic dysplasia and complements cancer formation induced by loss of other suppressor genes. However, NKX3.1 expression can be immunohistochemically detected in most primary prostate cancers. We examined the relationship between suppressor gene haploinsufficiency, methylation, and quantitative NKX3.1 expression levels in primary prostate cancer. NKX3.1 gene copy number was assessed by microsatellite analysis, fluorescence in situ hybridization, and quantitative PCR. NKX3.1 gene methylation was determined in prostate cancer cell lines and we thereby identified potential CpG methylation sites for methylation-specific PCR analysis in tissues. We validated and then applied an internally controlled fluorescence immunomicroscopic assay for NKX3.1 protein expression in 48 primary prostate cancer specimens from radical prostatectomies. NKX3.1 loss of heterozygosity was found in 27 of 43 tissues tested. Classic CpG island methylation of the NKX3.1 gene was not found in either prostate cancer cell lines or tissues. However, in 33 of 40 samples tested, CpG sites at -921, -903, and -47 were methylated to a greater degree in malignant than in adjacent normal cells. In 43 of 48 samples, NKX3.1 protein expression was reduced from 0.34 to 0.90 compared with adjacent normal luminal epithelium (mean of all samples, 0.68; 95% confidence interval, 0.05). In 12 cases that also had highgrade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia, NKX3.1 expression levels were similar in preinvasive and invasive cancer cells and significantly lower than adjacent normal cells. Even in the presence of allelic loss, NKX3.1 expression is reduced over a wide range in prostate cancer at the time of prostatectomy, suggesting that diverse factors influence expression. Samples with protein expression below the median level in cancer cells had both NKX3.1 deletion and selective CpG methylation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research