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Midkine is a NF-κB-inducible gene that supports prostate cancer cell survival



Midkine is a heparin-binding growth factor that is over-expressed in various human cancers and plays important roles in cell transformation, growth, survival, migration, and angiogenesis. However, little is known about the upstream factors and signaling mechanisms that regulate midkine gene expression.


Two prostate cancer cell lines LNCaP and PC3 were studied for their expression of midkine. Induction of midkine expression in LNCaP cells by serum, growth factors and cytokines was determined by Western blot analysis and/or real-time quantitative reverse-transcription - polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The cell viability was determined by the trypan blue exclusion assay when the LNCaP cells were treated with tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) and/or recombinant midkine. When the LNCaP cells were treated with recombinant midkine, activation of intracellular signalling pathways was determined by Western blot analysis. Prostate tissue microarray slides containing 129 cases (18 normal prostate tissues, 40 early stage cancers, and 71 late stage cancers) were assessed for midkine expression by immunohistochemical staining.


We identified that fetal bovine serum, some growth factors (epidermal growth factor, androgen, insulin-like growth factor-I, and hepatocyte growth factor) and cytokines (TNFalpha and interleukin-1beta) induced midkine expression in a human prostate cancer cell line LNCaP cells. TNFalpha also induced midkine expression in PC3 cells. TNFalpha was the strongest inducer of midkine expression via nuclear factor-kappa B pathway. Midkine partially inhibited TNFalpha-induced apoptosis in LNCaP cells. Knockdown of endogenous midkine expression by small interfering RNA enhanced TNFalpha-induced apoptosis in LNCaP cells. Midkine activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways in LNCaP cells. Furthermore, midkine expression was significantly increased in late stage prostate cancer, which coincides with previously reported high serum levels of TNFalpha in advanced prostate cancer.


These findings provide the first demonstration that midkine expression is induced by certain growth factors and cytokines, particularly TNFalpha, which offers new insight into understanding how midkine expression is increased in the late stage prostate cancer.

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