• prostate cancer;
  • TNF-alpha;
  • NF-kappaB;
  • apoptosis



The involvement of TNF-α in cancer development is controversial, since this cytokine was reported to act either as tumor promoter or suppressor. TNF-α may activate signaling pathways critical for life/death decisions, such as mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and the anti-apoptotic NF-κB pathway. In this work, we investigate the activation status of NF-κB-related proteins in human prostate cancerous versus normal epithelium, and the alterations in the NF-κB pathway in relation to cell death in TNF-α-treated LNCaP (androgen-independent cells) and PC3 (androgen-independent) prostate cancer cell lines.


The expression of phospho-p38-MAPK, phospho-IKK-α/β and phospho-IκB-α, total IκB-α, and p65- and p50-NF-κB, were analyzed by immunohistochemistry in cancerous and normal prostate samples. The toxicity of TNF-α in LNCaP and PC3 cells, with or without kinase and NF-κB inhibitors, was assessed by changes on viability (MTT assay) and apoptosis (loss of DNA, annexin-V binding, and caspase cleavage/activation). Expression of NF-κB-related proteins in these cell lines was measured by Western blot.


Phospho-IκB-α, phospho-IKK-α/β and phospho-p38 levels, cytoplasmic p50 to IκB-α ratio, and nuclear p50 and p65, levels, were increased in cancerous epithelium, suggesting activation of the NF-κB pathway in prostatic malignance. TNF-α caused apoptosis with higher efficacy in LNCaP cells, and this response was potentiated by p38-MAPK inhibitor (LNCaP cells) and IKK-β inhibitor (both cell lines). However, the protective action of IKK-β was mediated by NF-κB only in LNCaP cells.


IKK-β mediates both NF-κB-dependent and -independent anti-apoptotic functions in prostate cancerous epithelium. IKK-β and p38-MAPK may represent useful therapeutic targets against prostate cancer. Prostate 72:40–50, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.