Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Gene expression relationship between prostate cancer cells of Gleason 3, 4 and normal epithelial cells as revealed by cell type-specific transcriptomes

Laura E Pascal126, Ricardo ZN Vêncio34, Laura S Page12, Emily S Liebeskind1, Christina P Shadle1, Pamela Troisch3, Bruz Marzolf3, Lawrence D True5, Leroy E Hood3 and Alvin Y Liu12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Urology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

2 Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

3 Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, WA 98103, USA

4 Genetics Department, University of São Paulo's Medical School at Ribeirão Preto, Brazil CEP: 14049-900

5 Department of Pathology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

6 Current address: LEP, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Department of Urology, 5200 Centre Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

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BMC Cancer 2009, 9:452  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-452

Published: 18 December 2009



Prostate cancer cells in primary tumors have been typed CD10-/CD13-/CD24hi/CD26+/CD38lo/CD44-/CD104-. This CD phenotype suggests a lineage relationship between cancer cells and luminal cells. The Gleason grade of tumors is a descriptive of tumor glandular differentiation. Higher Gleason scores are associated with treatment failure.


CD26+ cancer cells were isolated from Gleason 3+3 (G3) and Gleason 4+4 (G4) tumors by cell sorting, and their gene expression or transcriptome was determined by Affymetrix DNA array analysis. Dataset analysis was used to determine gene expression similarities and differences between G3 and G4 as well as to prostate cancer cell lines and histologically normal prostate luminal cells.


The G3 and G4 transcriptomes were compared to those of prostatic cell types of non-cancer, which included luminal, basal, stromal fibromuscular, and endothelial. A principal components analysis of the various transcriptome datasets indicated a closer relationship between luminal and G3 than luminal and G4. Dataset comparison also showed that the cancer transcriptomes differed substantially from those of prostate cancer cell lines.


Genes differentially expressed in cancer are potential biomarkers for cancer detection, and those differentially expressed between G3 and G4 are potential biomarkers for disease stratification given that G4 cancer is associated with poor outcomes. Differentially expressed genes likely contribute to the prostate cancer phenotype and constitute the signatures of these particular cancer cell types.