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Calmodulin protects androgen receptor from calpain-mediated breakdown in prostate cancer cells



Although inactivation of the androgen receptor (AR) by androgen-ablation or anti-androgen treatment has been frontline therapy for disseminated prostate cancer for over 60 years, it is not curative because castration-resistant prostate cancer cells retain AR activity. Therefore, curative strategy should include targeted elimination of AR protein. Since AR binds to calmodulin (CaM), and since CaM-binding proteins are targets of calpain (Cpn)-mediated proteolysis, we studied the role of CaM and Cpn in AR breakdown in prostate cancer cells. Whereas the treatment of prostate cancer cells individually with anti-CaM drug or calcimycin, which increases intracellular Ca++ and activates Cpn, led to minimal AR breakdown, combined treatment led to a precipitous decrease in AR protein levels. This decrease in AR protein occurred without noticeable changes in AR mRNA levels, suggesting an increase in AR protein turnover rather than inhibition of AR mRNA expression. Thus, CaM inactivation seems to sensitize AR to Cpn-mediated breakdown in prostate cancer cells. Consistent with this possibility, purified recombinant human AR (rhAR) underwent proteolysis in the presence of purified Cpn, and the addition of purified CaM to the incubation blocked rhAR proteolysis. Together, these observations demonstrate that AR is a Cpn target and AR-bound CaM plays an important role in protecting AR from Cpn-mediated breakdown in prostate cancer cells. These observations raise an intriguing possibility that anti-CaM drugs in combination with Cpn-activating agents may offer a curative strategy for the treatment of prostate cancer, which relies on AR for growth and survival. J. Cell. Physiol. 226: 1889–1896, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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