A marked decrease in the type insulin-like growth factor (IGF) receptor (IGF-IR) occurs in prostate epithelial cells during transformation from the benign to the metastatic state. One of the principal regulators of IGF-IR gene expression, the WT1 tumor suppressor, is expressed in prostate cancer and in prostate cancer cell lines. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the decrease in IGF-IR expression was transcriptionally regulated, and whether WT1 action may be involved in the repression of the IGF-IR gene in prostate cancer cells. The P69 cell line was derived by immortalization of human primary prostate epithelial cells with simian virus-40 T antigen and is rarely tumorigenic. The M12 line was derived from the P69 line by selection for tumor formation in nude mice and is tumorigeneic and metastatic. P69 cells express 20,000 IGF-IR/cell, whereas M12 cells express 3,500 IGF-IR/cell. These differences in receptor number are reflected in proportional differences in IGF-IR mRNA levels. To assess IGF-IR promoter activity in these cell lines, each was transiently transfected with luciferase reporter vectors containing the IGF-IR gene transcription start site and 476 bp of 5′-flanking sequence, 640 bp of 5′-untranslated region sequence, or both regions. The promoter activity of the full-length construct was 50% lower (P < 0.01) in M12 cells compared with P69 cells, the activity of the 5′-flanking region construct was 53% lower (P < 0.0001), and that of the 5′-untranslated region construct was 36% lower (P = 0.01). P69 clones stably transfected with a WT1 expression vector exhibited decreased expression of the endogenous IGF-IR gene and decreased promoter activity in transient transfection assays with IGF-IR promoter constructs containing multiple WT1 binding sites. The observed reduction in endogenous IGF-IR expression was sufficient to inhibit IGF-I-stimulated cell proliferation. These data suggest that most of the decreased expression of the IGF-IR seen in malignant prostate epithelium is the result of transcriptional repression of the IGF-IR gene, and that this repression may be due in part to the increased expression of the WT1 tumor suppressor in metastatic prostate cancer.
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