Many pathways dysregulated in prostate cancer are also involved in epithelial differentiation. To better understand prostate tumor initiation, we sought to investigate specific genes and mechanisms required for normal basal to luminal cell differentiation. Utilizing human prostate basal epithelial cells and an <i>in vitro</i> differentiation model, we tested the hypothesis that regulation of NOTCH3 by the p38 MAPK family (hereafter p38-MAPK), via MYC, is required for luminal differentiation. Inhibition (SB202190 and BIRB796) or knockdown of p38α (also known as MAPK14) and/or p38δ (also known as MAPK13) prevented proper differentiation. Additionally, treatment with a γ-secretase inhibitor (RO4929097) or knockdown of NOTCH1 and/or NOTCH3 greatly impaired differentiation and caused luminal cell death. Constitutive p38-MAPK activation through MKK6(CA) increased NOTCH3 (but not NOTCH1) mRNA and protein levels, which was diminished upon MYC inhibition (10058-F4 and JQ1) or knockdown. Furthermore, we validated two <i>NOTCH3</i> enhancer elements through a combination of enhancer (e)RNA detection (BruUV-seq) and luciferase reporter assays. Finally, we found that the <i>NOTCH3</i> mRNA half-life increased during differentiation or upon acute p38-MAPK activation. These results reveal a new connection between p38-MAPK, MYC and NOTCH signaling, demonstrate two mechanisms of <i>NOTCH3</i> regulation and provide evidence for NOTCH3 involvement in prostate luminal cell differentiation.
J Cell Sci (Journal of cell science)
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