BACKGROUND - Adenovirus-mediated overexpression of the apoptosis-inducing protein Bax can induce apoptosis in prostate cancer cell lines. Constitutive overexpression of Bax could result in unwanted apoptosis in every site of accidental Bax accumulation in vivo. Therefore, we developed an adenoviral construct (Av-ARR2PB-Bax) in which the probasin promoter, modified to contain two androgen response elements, drives Bax expression. This promoter would be expected to limit expression of Bax to cells expressing the androgen receptor.
METHODS - A variety of androgen receptor (AR)-positive and -negative cell lines of prostatic or nonprostatic origin were infected with Av-ARR2PB-Bax or a control virus, Av-ARR2PB-CAT, in which the same promoter drives expression of the chloramphenicol acetyl transferase-reporter gene. Bax expression and apoptosis in vitro were assessed by western blot analysis. Tumor size and apoptosis in vivo were assessed after four weekly injections of Av-ARR2PB-Bax or Av-ARR2PB-CAT into subcutaneous LNCaP xenografts growing in uncastrated male mice. All statistical tests were two-sided.
RESULTS - Bax was overexpressed in an androgen-dependent way in AR-positive cell lines of prostatic origin but not in AR-positive cells of nonprostatic origin or in AR-negative cell lines of either prostatic or nonprostatic origin. The androgen dihydrotestosterone activated apoptosis in LNCaP cells infected with Av-ARR2PB-Bax but not in those infected with Av-ARR2PB-CAT. Av-ARR2PB-Bax-injected LNCaP xenograft tumors decreased in tumor size from 34.1 mm3 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 25.1 mm3 to 43.1 mm3) to 24.6 mm3 (95% CI = -2.5 mm3 to 51.7 mm3), but the difference was not statistically significant (P =.5). Tumors injected with Av-ARR2PB-CAT increased in size, from 28.9 mm3 (95% CI = 12.7 mm3 to 45.1 mm3) to 206 mm3 (95% CI = 122 mm3 to 290 mm3) (P =.002) and contained statistically significant more apoptotic cells (23.3% [95% CI = 21.1% to 25.6%] versus 9.5% [95% CI = 8.0% to 11.1]) (P<.001).
CONCLUSIONS - Av-ARR2PB-Bax induces androgen-dependent therapeutic apoptosis in vitro and in vivo by activating apoptosis in AR-positive cells derived specifically from prostatic epithelium and does not affect nonprostatic cells.