Flutamide is a nonsteroidal antiandrogen that is frequently used for total androgen blockage in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer. We investigated the effect of this antiandrogen on the expression of protein kinase C (PKC) isoenzymes (α, β1, ∊, ζ) that are involved in cell growth, apoptosis and neoplastic transformation. Androgen-dependent (LNCaP) and independent (PC3) human prostate cancer cells were cultured in a medium that contained fetal bovine serum (FBS) or charcoal-stripped serum (CSS) and treated with 10 μM flutamide. The expression of PKC isoenzymes and the androgen receptor (AR) were analyzed by Western blot and RT-PCR, respectively. Serum steroids differentially regulate the expression of PKC isoenzymes in LNCaP and PC3 cells. Flutamide up-regulated the expression of α, β1 and ζ, but not , PKC isoenzymes in CSS-LNCaP cells. These results were not homogeneously reproduced in the presence of androgens. We observed an opposite effect of flutamide, compared to CSS, on PKCβ1 isoform expression in CSS-LNCaP suggesting that this antiandrogen exerts an agonistic effect. In PC3 cells flutamide potentiated the expression of the four PKC isoenzymes in almost all conditions tested (FBS- and CSS-cultured cells). Such effect of flutamide in PC3 cells is independent of AR since no expression of AR was detected. These results provide new evidence on antagonistic/agonistic responses of prostate cancer cells to antiandrogen drugs that are widely used in therapy and show that flutamide can elicit responses in prostate cancer cells that do not express AR.

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