Elevation of intracellular calcium levels in the presence of normal androgen levels has been implicated in apoptotic prostate cell death. Since the androgen receptor (AR) plays a critical role in the regulation of growth and differentiation of the prostate, it was of interest to determine whether Ca2+ would affect the expression of androgen receptor messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein, thus affecting the ability of androgens to control prostate function. AR-positive human prostate cancer cells, LNCaP, were incubated with either the calcium ionophore A23187 or the intracellular endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase inhibitor thapsigargin. Subsequently, AR mRNA and protein levels were assessed by Northern and Western blot analysis. Both A23187 and thapsigargin were found to down-regulate steady state AR mRNA levels in a time- and dose-dependent manner. AR mRNA began to decrease after 6-8 h of incubation with 10(−6) M A23187 or 10(−7) M thapsigargin, reaching a nadir at 16 and 10 h of incubation, respectively. In contrast, control mRNA (glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase) did not change significantly during the treatments with either A23187 or thapsigargin. AR protein levels were found to be decreased after 12 h of incubation with either 10(−6) M A23187 or 10(−7) M thapsigargin. The decrease in AR mRNA and protein seemed to precede apoptosis, since neither A23187 (24 h) nor thapsigargin (30 h) was found to alter cell morphology within the treatment time. Cycloheximide and actinomycin D were unable to change the calcium-mediated decrease in AR mRNA, ruling out the necessity for de novo protein synthesis or a change in mRNA stability. Moreover, the decrease in AR mRNA induced by calcium does not seem to involve protein kinase C- or calmodulin-dependent pathways, since inhibitors of these cellular components had no effect. Nuclear run-on assays demonstrated little or no effects of either A23187 or thapsigargin treatment on AR gene transcription (8 h and 10 h). In conclusion, these studies show that intracellular calcium seems to be a potent regulator of AR gene expression in LNCaP cells.
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