ARTICLE ABSTRACTDysregulation of mTOR signaling plays a critical role in promoting prostate cancer growth. HOXB13, a homeodomain transcription factor, is known to influence the androgen response and prostate cancer development. Recently, HOXB13 was found to complex with mTOR on chromatin. However, the functional crosstalk between HOXB13 and mTOR remains elusive. We now report that mTOR directly interacts with and hierarchically phosphorylates HOXB13 at threonine 8 and 41 then serine 31 to promote its interaction with the E3 ligase SKP2 while enhancing its oncogenic properties. Expression of HOXB13 harboring phosphomimetic mutations at the mTOR-targeted sites stimulates prostate cancer cellular growth both in vitro and in murine xenografts. Transcriptional profiling studies revealed a phospho-HOXB13–dependent gene signature capable of robustly discriminating between normal prostate tissues, primary and metastatic prostate cancer samples. This work uncovers a previously unanticipated molecular cascade by which mTOR directly phosphorylates HOXB13 to dictate a specific gene program with oncogenic implications in prostate cancer.
Control of HOXB13 transcriptional activity via its direct phosphorylation by the mTOR kinase is a potential therapeutic avenue for the management of advanced prostate cancer.