BACKGROUND Biological significance of ELK1, a transcriptional factor whose phosphorylation is necessary for c-fos proto-oncogene activation, in prostate cancer remains far from fully understood. In this study, we aim to investigate the role of ELK1 in tumor growth as well as the efficacy of a selective α1A-adrenergic blocker, silodosin, in ELK1 activity in prostate cancer cells. METHODS We first immunohistochemically determined the levels of phospho-ELK1 (p-ELK1) expression in radical prostatectomy specimens. We then assessed the effects of ELK1 knockdown via short hairpin RNA and silodosin on cell proliferation, migration, and invasion in prostate cancer lines. RESULTS The levels of p-ELK1 expression were significantly higher in carcinoma than in benign (P < 0.001) or high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN) (P = 0.002) as well as in HGPIN than in benign (P < 0.001). Kaplan-Meier and log-rank tests revealed that moderate-strong positivity of p-ELK1 in carcinomas tended to correlate with biochemical recurrence after radical prostatectomy (P = 0.098). In PC3 and DU145 expressing ELK1 (mRNA/protein) but no androgen receptor (AR), ELK1 silencing resulted in considerable decreases in the expression of c-fos as well as in cell migration/invasion and matrix metalloproteinase-2 expression, but not in cell viability. Silodosin treatment reduced the expression/activity of ELK1 in these cells as well as the viability of AR-positive LNCaP and C4-2 cells and the migration of both AR-positive and AR-negative cells, but not the viability of AR-negative or ELK1-negative cells. Interestingly, silodosin significantly increased sensitivity to gemcitabine, but not to cisplatin or docetaxel, even in AR-negative cells. CONCLUSIONS ELK1 is likely to be activated in prostate cancer cells and promote tumor progression. Furthermore, silodosin that inactivates ELK1 in prostate cancer cells not only inhibits their growth but also enhances the cytotoxic activity of gemcitabine. Thus, ELK1 inhibition has the potential of being a therapeutic approach for prostate cancer. Prostate 76:744-756, 2016.
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