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Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-associated deaths in men, and signaling via a transcription factor called androgen receptor (AR) is an important driver of the disease. Consequently, AR target genes are prominent candidates to be specific for prostate cancer and also important for the survival of the cancer cells. Here we assess the levels of all hexosamine biosynthetic pathway (HBP) enzymes in 15 separate clinical gene expression data sets and identify the last enzyme in the pathway, UDP-N-acetylglucosamine pyrophosphorylase 1 (UAP1), to be highly overexpressed in prostate cancer. We analyzed 3261 prostate cancers on a tissue microarray and found that UAP1 staining correlates negatively with Gleason score (P=0.0039) and positively with high AR expression (P<0.0001). Cells with high UAP1 expression have 10-fold increased levels of the HBP end-product, UDP-N-acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc). UDP-GlcNAc is essential for N-linked glycosylation occurring in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and high UAP1 expression associates with resistance against inhibitors of N-linked glycosylation (tunicamycin and 2-deoxyglucose) but not with a general ER stress-inducing agent, the calcium ionophore A23187. Knockdown of UAP1 expression re-sensitized cells towards inhibitors of N-linked glycosylation, as measured by proliferation and activation of ER stress markers. Taken together, we have identified an enzyme, UAP1, which is highly overexpressed in prostate cancer and protects cancer cells from ER stress conferring a growth advantage.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





3744 - 3750


Cell Line, Tumor, Cell Proliferation, Deoxyglucose, Endoplasmic Reticulum, Galactosyltransferases, Glycosylation, Humans, Male, Prostatic Neoplasms, Receptors, Androgen, Tissue Array Analysis, Tunicamycin, Up-Regulation