Expression of the Bcl-2 protein BAD promotes prostate cancer growth.
BAD, a pro-apoptotic protein of the Bcl-2 family, has recently been identified as an integrator of several anti-apoptotic signaling pathways in prostate cancer cells. Thus, activation of EGFR, GPCRs or PI3K pathway leads to BAD phosphorylation and inhibition of apoptosis. Increased levels of BAD in prostate carcinomas have also been reported. It appears contradictory that instead of limiting expression of pro-apoptotic protein, prostate cancer cells choose to increase BAD levels while keeping it under tight phosphorylation control. Analysis of the effect of BAD on prostate cancer xenografts has shown that increased BAD expression enhances tumor growth, while knockdown of BAD expression by shRNA inhibits tumor growth. Tissue culture experiments demonstrated that increased BAD expression stimulates proliferation of prostate cancer cells. These results suggest that increased expression of BAD provides a proliferative advantage to prostate tumors, while BAD dephosphorylation increases sensitivity of prostate cancer cells to apoptosis. Combination of proliferative and apoptotic properties prompts prostate cancer cells to be "addicted" to increased levels of phosphorylated BAD. Thus, kinases that phosphorylate BAD are plausible therapeutic targets; while monitoring BAD phosphorylation could be used to predict tumor response to treatments.