Prostate cancer initiation and progression are uniquely dependent on the androgen receptor (AR). Even when the cancer progresses to a castration-resistant stage, AR signaling remains active via a variety of mechanisms. In the present study, we showed that NF-κB/p52 can activate the AR, resulting in increased transactivation of AR-responsive genes, such as PSA and NKX3.1, in a ligand-independent manner. NF-κB2/p52 enhances nuclear translocation and activation of AR by interacting with its NH 2-terminal domain and enhances the recruitment of coactivators such as p300 to the promoters of AR-dependent genes. These results were confirmed in three different prostate cancer cell lines: LAPC-4 (wild-type AR), LNCaP (mutant AR), and C4-2 (castration resistant). Transfection of p52 into LAPC-4 and LNCaP cells (which express low levels of p52) showed increased activation of the endogenous AR. Downregulation of endogenous p52 in C4-2 cells resulted in abrogation of AR constitutive activation. Comparison of the relative effects of p52 and p65 (RelA) showed that p52, but not p65, could activate the AR. Collectively, these findings, together with previous reports that the levels of NF-κB2/p52 are elevated in prostate cancer cells and that active NF-κB2/p52 promotes prostate cancer cell growth in vitro and in vivo, suggest that NF-κB2/p52 may play a critical role in the progression of castration-resistant prostate cancer.
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