Distinguishing aggressive from indolent disease and developing effective therapy for advanced disease are the major challenges in prostate cancer research. Chromosomal rearrangements involving ETS transcription factors, such as ERG and ETV1, occur frequently in prostate cancer. How they contribute to tumorigenesis and whether they play similar or distinct in vivo roles remain elusive. Here we show that in mice with ERG or ETV1 targeted to the endogenous Tmprss2 locus, either factor cooperated with loss of a single copy of Pten, leading to localized cancer, but only ETV1 appeared to support development of invasive adenocarcinoma under the background of full Pten loss. Mechanistic studies demonstrated that ERG and ETV1 control a common transcriptional network but largely in an opposing fashion. In particular, while ERG negatively regulates the androgen receptor (AR) transcriptional program, ETV1 cooperates with AR signaling by favoring activation of the AR transcriptional program. Furthermore, we found that ETV1 expression, but not that of ERG, promotes autonomous testosterone production. Last, we confirmed the association of an ETV1 expression signature with aggressive disease and poorer outcome in patient data. The distinct biology of ETV1-associated prostate cancer suggests that this disease class may require new therapies directed to underlying programs controlled by ETV1.
- Androgen receptor
- ETS transcription factor