A novel nonsense mutation in androgen receptor confers resistance to CYP17 inhibitor treatment in prostate cancer

The standard treatment for prostate cancer (PCa) is androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) that blocks transcriptional activity of androgen receptor (AR). However, ADT invariably leads to the development of castration-resistant PCa (CRPC) with restored activity of AR. CRPC can be further treated with CYP17 inhibitors to block androgen synthesis pathways, but most patients still relapse after a year of such treatment. The mechanisms that drive this progression are not fully understood, but AR activity, at least in a subset of cancers, appears to be restored again. Importantly, AR mutations are more frequently detected in this type of cancer. By analyzing tumor biopsy mRNA from CRPC patients who had developed resistance to CYP17 inhibitor treatment, we have identified a novel nonsense mutation (Q784*) at the ligand binding domain (LBD) of AR, which produces a C-terminal truncated AR protein that lacks intact LBD. This AR-Q784* mutant is transcriptionally inactive, but it is constitutively expressed in the nucleus and can bind to DNA in the absence of androgen. Significantly, our results show that AR-Q784* can heterodimerize with, and enhance the transcriptional activity of, full-length AR. Moreover, expressing AR-Q784* in an AR positive PCa cell line enhances the chromatin binding of endogenous AR and the recruitment of p300 coactivator under the low androgen condition, leading to increased cell growth. This activity of AR-Q784* mimics the function of some AR splice variants, indicating that CYP17 inhibitor treatment in CRPC may select for LBD-truncated forms of AR to restore AR signaling.

Oncotarget. 2016 Dec 27 [Epub ahead of print]

Dong Han, Shuai Gao, Kevin Valencia, Jude Owiredu, Wanting Han, Eric de Waal, Jill A Macoska, Changmeng Cai

Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, Massachusetts 02125, USA., Biology Department, University of Suffolk, Boston, Massachusetts 02108, USA.