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Decreased intracellular zinc in human tumorigenic prostate epithelial cells: a possible role in prostate cancer progression

Liping Huang123*, Catherine P Kirschke1 and Yunfan Zhang24

Author Affiliations

1 Western Human Nutrition Research Center/Agriculture Research Service/United States Department of Agriculture, Davis, California, USA

2 Department of Nutrition, University of California at Davis, Davis, California, USA

3 Rowe Program in Genetics, University of California at Davis, Davis, California, USA

4 Department of Anatomy and Cell biology, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA

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Cancer Cell International 2006, 6:10  doi:10.1186/1475-2867-6-10

Published: 31 March 2006



Zinc plays important roles in maintaining normal function of the prostate and in development of prostate malignancy. It has been demonstrated that prostate malignant epithelial cells contain much less cellular zinc than the surrounding normal epithelial cells. However, the pathway(s) which leads to lower zinc accumulation in malignant prostate epithelial cells is poorly understood. In this study, the zinc homeostatic features of two human prostate epithelial cell lines (non-tumorigenic, RWPE1, and tumorigenic, RWPE2) were investigated. Effects of over-expression of ZIP1 in RWPE2 on cell proliferation and apoptosis were also studied.


RWPE2 accumulated less intracellular zinc than RWPE1 due to the decreased zinc uptake activity. The mRNA expression of ZIP1 and ZIP3 in RWPE1 and RWPE2 was comparable. However, the protein expression of ZIP1 in RWPE2 was lower than that in RWPE1. ZIP3 was detected in a lysosomal compartment of RWPE2 while no ZIP3 was detected in the same compartment of RWPE1. Over-expression of ZIP1 in RWPE2 resulted in an elevation of intracellular zinc concentration and suppression of cell growth of RWPE2 due to the increased apoptosis.


These findings suggest that tumorigenic prostate epithelial cells accumulated less intracellular zinc than non-tumorigenic prostate epithelial cells. The reduction in capacity for accumulation of intracellular zinc in tumorigenic prostate epithelial cells may be caused by the decrease in the ZIP1 protein expression and the intracellular redistribution of ZIP3 in RWPE2. RWPE1 and RWPE2 are excellent cellular models to study the association of intracellular zinc levels with prostate cancer progression.