Representative in vitro model systems that accurately model response to therapy and allow the identification of new targets are important for improving our treatment of prostate cancer. Here we describe molecular characterization and drug testing in a panel of 20 prostate cancer cell lines. The cell lines cluster into distinct subsets based on RNA expression, which is largely driven by functional Androgen Receptor (AR) expression. KLK3, the AR-responsive gene that encodes prostate specific antigen, shows the greatest variability in expression across the cell line panel. Other common prostate cancer associated genes such as TMPRSS2 and ERG show similar expression patterns. Copy number analysis demonstrates that many of the most commonly gained (including regions containing TERC and MYC) and lost regions (including regions containing TP53 and PTEN) that were identified in patient samples by the TCGA are mirrored in the prostate cancer cell lines. Assessment of response to the anti-androgen enzalutamide shows a distinct separation of responders and non-responders, predominantly related to status of wild-type AR. Surprisingly, several AR-null lines responded to enzalutamide. These AR-null, enzalutamide-responsive cells were characterized by high levels of expression of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) encoded by NR3C1. Treatment of these cells with the anti-GR agent mifepristone showed that they were more sensitive to this drug than enzalutamide, as were several of the enzalutamide non-responsive lines. This is consistent with several recent reports that suggest that GR expression is an alternative signaling mechanism that can bypass AR blockade. This study reinforces the utility of large cell line panels for the study of cancer and identifies several cell lines that represent ideal models to study AR-null cells that have upregulated GR to sustain growth.
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