Castration-Induced Downregulation of SPARC in Stromal Cells Drives Neuroendocrine Differentiation of Prostate Cancer

Claudia Enriquez, Valeria Cancila, Renata Ferri, Roberta Sulsenti, Irene Fischetti, Matteo Milani, Paola Ostano, Ilaria Gregnanin, Maurizia Mello-Grand, Enrico Berrino, Marco Bregni, Giuseppe Renne, Claudio Tripodo, Mario P Colombo, Elena Jachetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fatal neuroendocrine differentiation (NED) of castration-resistant prostate cancer is a recurrent mechanism of resistance to androgen deprivation therapies (ADT) and antiandrogen receptor pathway inhibitors (ARPI) in patients. The design of effective therapies for neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC) is complicated by limited knowledge of the molecular mechanisms governing NED. The paucity of acquired genomic alterations and the deregulation of epigenetic and transcription factors suggest a potential contribution from the microenvironment. In this context, whether ADT/ARPI induces stromal cells to release NED-promoting molecules and the underlying molecular networks are unestablished. Here, we utilized transgenic and transplantable mouse models and coculture experiments to unveil a novel tumor-stroma cross-talk that is able to induce NED under the pressure of androgen deprivation. Castration induced upregulation of GRP78 in tumor cells, which triggers miR29-b-mediated downregulation of the matricellular protein SPARC in the nearby stroma. SPARC downregulation enabled stromal cells to release IL6, a known inducer of NED. A drug that targets GRP78 blocked NED in castrated mice. A public, human NEPC gene expression dataset showed that Hspa5 (encoding for GRP78) positively correlates with hallmarks of NED. Finally, prostate cancer specimens from patients developing local NED after ADT showed GRP78 upregulation in tumor cells and SPARC downregulation in the stroma. These results point to GRP78 as a potential therapeutic target and to SPARC downregulation in stromal cells as a potential early biomarker of tumors undergoing NED. SIGNIFICANCE: Tumor-stroma cross-talk promotes neuroendocrine differentiation in prostate cancer in response to hormone therapy via a GRP78/SPARC/IL6 axis, providing potential therapeutic targets and biomarkers for neuroendocrine prostate cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4257-4274
Number of pages18
JournalCancer Research
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 15 2021


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