Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) and androgen receptor (AR) signaling inhibitors are front-line treatments for highly aggressive prostate cancer. However, prolonged inhibition of AR triggers a compensatory activation of PI3K pathway, most often due to the genomic loss of tumor suppressor PTEN, driving progression to the castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) stage, which has very poor prognosis. We uncovered a novel mechanism of PTEN downregulation triggered by LIMK2, which contributes significantly to CRPC pathogenesis. LIMK2 is a CRPC-specific target. Its depletion fully reverses tumorigenesis in vivo. LIMK2 phosphorylates PTEN at five sites, degrading and inhibiting its activity, thereby driving highly aggressive oncogenic phenotypes in cells and in vivo. PTEN also degrades LIMK2 in a feedback loop, which was confirmed in prostates from PTEN and PTEN mice. LIMK2 is also the missing link between hypoxia and PTEN degradation in CRPC. This is the first study to show a feedback loop between PTEN and its regulator. Uncovering the LIMK2-PTEN loop provides a powerful therapeutic opportunity to retain the activity and stability of PTEN protein by inhibiting LIMK2, thereby halting the progression to CRPC, ADT-resistance and drug-resistance.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.