Treatment-emergent small cell neuroendocrine prostate cancer (t-SCNC) is associated with an epithelial lineage switch from an androgen receptor (AR)-positive to neuroendocrine (NE)-marker-positive status. Understanding the potential for reversibility of this aggressive disease state has been hampered by the paucity of models suitable for studying rate-limiting, transitional, or intermediate tumor cell subpopulations. We define a dual reporter model that measures acute transcriptional changes in response to castration or AR targeting agents. We identify steady-state transcriptional heterogeneity in AR and NE biomarkers, including intermediate subpopulations that are coordinately high for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and neuron-specific enoclase (NSE) promoter activity. In the presence of castration or AR inhibitors, intermediate cells were necessary and sufficient for therapy-induced conversion of human PC cells to an NSE-high transcriptional status. Using hormone add-back studies, treatment-induced PSA-NSE transcriptional plasticity was reversible in PTEN-deficient PC cells but not in the presence of secondary genetic driver genes, including MYCN.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111123
JournalCell Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - 26 Jul 2022


  • CP: Cancer
  • CRPC
  • NEPC
  • PTEN
  • lineage conversion
  • prostate cancer


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