Macrophages induce neuroendocrine differentiation of prostate cancer cells via BMP6-IL6 Loop

Geun Taek Lee, Seok Joo Kwon, Jae Ho Lee, Seong Soo Jeon, Kee Taek Jang, Han Yong Choi, Hyun Moo Lee, Wun Jae Kim, Dong Hyeon Lee, Isaac Yi Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND Frequently associated with hormone refractory prostate cancer are neuroendocrine cells. Because these cells do not express androgen receptors and are castration-resistant, further understanding the mechanism of neuroendocrine differentiation (NED) of prostate cancer cells may yield novel intervention methods in hormone refractory prostate cancer. In this regard, the present study investigated the effect of macrophages on prostate cancer NED. METHODS THP-1 and LNCaP or RAW264.7 and TRAMP-C2 cell line co-cultures were used to investigate NED-macrophage interactions. Also interleukin-6 (IL-6) knockout mice and macrophage-depleted mice were used to test NED in vivo. RESULTS We found that co-culturing with THP-1 human monocytic cell line and RAW 264.7 murine macrophage cell line led to the NED of LNCaP and TRAMP-C2 prostate cancer cells, respectively. Specifically, the conditioned media of activated macrophages stimulated the expression of parathyroid hormone-related peptide (PTHrP), a marker of NED, in both LNCaP and TRAMP-C2 cells. Mechanistically, bone morphogenetic protein-6 (BMP-6) derived from prostate cancer cells increased the expression of IL-6 in macrophages. Subsequently, IL-6 induced the NED of prostate cancer cells. When this feedback loop was disrupted with neutralizing antibodies to either BMP-6 or IL-6, NED was no longer observed. In human prostate cancer tissues, neuroendocrine cells frequently co-localized with macrophages and BMP-6. In mice, the removal of IL-6 or macrophages blocked the BMP-6-induced NED of prostate cancer cells. CONCLUSIONS Therefore, we propose that BMP-6 secreted by prostate cancer cells induces IL-6 expression in macrophages; IL-6, in turn, stimulates the NED of prostate cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1525-1537
Number of pages13
Issue number14
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2011


  • IL-6
  • bone morphogenetic protein-6
  • cytokines
  • macrophages
  • neuroendocrine-like prostate cancer cell
  • transdifferentiation


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