Recent work has shown that prostate cancer cells can acquire steroidogenic activity as they progress to a therapeutic-resistant state. However, benign prostate stromal cells (PrSCs) also have steroidogenic potential though they are often overlooked as a source of intratumoral androgens. Here, we present preliminary studies showing that the steroidogenic activity of primary human PrSCs is significantly increased by exposure to a Hedgehog agonist (SAG) or by transduction of PrSCs with lentiviruses that expresses active Gli2 (Gli2ΔN), a transcription factor that is triggered by Hh signaling.
Comparative gene expression profiling on Chips, that was confirmed by quantitative real-time PCR, revealed that hedgehog agonist treatment induced in these cells expressions of hedgehog target genes (Gli1, Ptch1, and SCUBE1) plus a specific cadre of genes involved in cholesterol/steroid biosynthesis, metabolism, and transport.
Genes involved downstream in steroid hormone generation, including CYP17A1 and CYP19A1 were also induced.
Both the hedgehog agonist and the Gli2-expressing lentivirus significantly increased the output of testosterone (T) from PrSCs that were supplemented with dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), an adrenal precursor of T. Finally, knockdown of Gli2 by siRNA suppressed the ability of SAG to induce this response. Collectively, our data indicate that hedgehog/Gli signaling may be a factor in acquired intratumoral steroidogenesis of a prostate tumor through its actions on stromal cells in the tumor microenvironment and an influence for the development of CRPC.