Open Access Research article

Midkine is a NF-κB-inducible gene that supports prostate cancer cell survival

Zongbing You15*, Ying Dong1, Xiangtian Kong2, Laurel A Beckett3, Regina Gandour-Edwards4 and Jonathan Melamed2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA

2 Department of Pathology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA

3 Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Biostatistics, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA

4 Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA

5 Department of Structural & Cellular Biology and Tulane Cancer Center, Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium, School of Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA

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BMC Medical Genomics 2008, 1:6  doi:10.1186/1755-8794-1-6

Published: 14 February 2008



Midkine is a heparin-binding growth factor that is over-expressed in various human cancers and plays important roles in cell transformation, growth, survival, migration, and angiogenesis. However, little is known about the upstream factors and signaling mechanisms that regulate midkine gene expression.


Two prostate cancer cell lines LNCaP and PC3 were studied for their expression of midkine. Induction of midkine expression in LNCaP cells by serum, growth factors and cytokines was determined by Western blot analysis and/or real-time quantitative reverse-transcription – polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The cell viability was determined by the trypan blue exclusion assay when the LNCaP cells were treated with tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) and/or recombinant midkine. When the LNCaP cells were treated with recombinant midkine, activation of intracellular signalling pathways was determined by Western blot analysis. Prostate tissue microarray slides containing 129 cases (18 normal prostate tissues, 40 early stage cancers, and 71 late stage cancers) were assessed for midkine expression by immunohistochemical staining.


We identified that fetal bovine serum, some growth factors (epidermal growth factor, androgen, insulin-like growth factor-I, and hepatocyte growth factor) and cytokines (TNFα and interleukin-1beta) induced midkine expression in a human prostate cancer cell line LNCaP cells. TNFα also induced midkine expression in PC3 cells. TNFα was the strongest inducer of midkine expression via nuclear factor-kappa B pathway. Midkine partially inhibited TNFα-induced apoptosis in LNCaP cells. Knockdown of endogenous midkine expression by small interfering RNA enhanced TNFα-induced apoptosis in LNCaP cells. Midkine activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways in LNCaP cells. Furthermore, midkine expression was significantly increased in late stage prostate cancer, which coincides with previously reported high serum levels of TNFα in advanced prostate cancer.


These findings provide the first demonstration that midkine expression is induced by certain growth factors and cytokines, particularly TNFα, which offers new insight into understanding how midkine expression is increased in the late stage prostate cancer.