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PC-3 Cells - Prostate Cancer Insights: The Role of PC-3 in Current Studies

PC-3 cell line is an in vitro model of androgen-independent prostate cancer. It is known for excellent transfection amenability and high metastatic potential. In addition, the cell line is widely used in cancer biology and drug development research.

This article will give you some imperative information about the PC-3 cell line. Mainly we will discuss the following:

  1. General information and origin of the PC-3 cell line
  2. Culturing of PC-3 cells
  3. PC-3 cell line: Advantages & Limitations
  4. Applications of PC-3 cells
  5. Research Publications Featuring PC-3 Cells
  6. Resources for PC-3 Cell line: Protocols, Videos, and More

1.      General information and origin of the PC-3 cell line

Knowing about a cell line's general attributes and origin is crucial before you start working with it. This section will help you learn; What are the characteristics of PC3 cells? Where are PC3 cells derived from? What is the size of the line in PC3 cells? and much more.

  • PC-3, a prostate cancer cell line, was derived from the bone metastasis in a sixty-two years old man (caucasian) having grade IV prostate adenocarcinoma. The cell line was established in 1979.
  • PC-3 cells are non-responsive to androgen receptors, fibroblast growth factors, or glucocorticoids; however, research shows that they are affected by epidermal growth factors.
  • These cells exhibit epithelial-like morphology.
  • The size of PC-3 cells ranges between 15.1-16.6 µm in diameter.
  • PC-3 cel line is near-triploid. The modal chromosome number for this cell line is 62. Almost 20 marker chromosomes are generally found in each PC-3 cell, however, normal N2, N3, N4, N5, N12, and N15 are absent.

PC-3 Vs LNCaP cell line

Both PC-3 and LNCaP cell lines are frequently used in prostate cancer cell models. Nevertheless, they exhibit different characteristics. For instance, contrary to PC-3 cells, LNCaP cells have low metastatic potential and express luminal differentiation markers, i.e., prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and androgen receptor (AR) [1].

PC-3 Vs DU145

These cell lines represent earlier type-I androgen depletion-independent (ADI) prostate cancers and do not express androgen receptors [2]. DU145 cells possess moderate metastatic potential compared to PC-3 prostate cancer cells.

Microfilament-assisted movement of PC3 prostate cancer cells.

2.      Culturing PC-3 cells

PC-3 cell line is commonly cultured in cancer research laboratories. For easy and efficient culturing of this cell line, you should know the following key points. This section will cover all the necessary information about culturing of PC-3 cells, including their doubling time, seeding density, growth medium, freezing, thawing process, and storage.

Key Points for Culturing PC-3 Cells

Population Doubling Time:

The population doubling time for PC-3 cells is about 40 hours.

Adherent or in Suspension:

PC-3 cells are usually adherent however, they can be adapted to grow in suspension cultures.

Seeding Density:

A seeding density of 3 x 104 cells/cm2 is preferred to start a new PC-3 culture, whereas 1 x 104 cells/cmcell density is maintained afterwards cell recovery for subsequent subculturing or splitting steps. Adherent cells are washed with 1x PBS and incubated with TrypleExpress or Accutase dissociation solution to seed. Detached cells are recovered through centrifugation, carefully resuspended, and dispensed into the new flask containing the growth medium.

Growth Medium:

DMEM or Ham’s F12 media are used for culturing PC-3 cells. These media are augmented with 5 % fetal bovine serum (FBS) and 2.5 mM L-glutamine for optimal cell growth.

Growth Conditions:

PC-3 cells grow at 37°C temperature in a humidified incubator with a 5 % CO2 supply.


PC-3 cells are stored in the vapour phase of liquid nitrogen (at below -150°C temperature) to maintain cell viability.

Freezing Process and Medium:

A slow freezing method is recommended for freezing PC-3 cells. This method allows the temperature to drop gradually by 1 °C, thus preventing cells from shock and maintaining their viability. CM-1 or CM-ACF freezing medium is used for freezing these prostate cancer cells.

Thawing Process:

Frozen PC-3 cell vials are quickly thawed by rapid agitation in a 37 °C water bath until a small ice clump is left. After adding the fresh medium, these cells are centrifuged to remove freezing medium elements. Recovered cells are resuspended with a growth medium and dispended into flasks for culturing. These cells usually take 24 hours to adhere to the surface of the flask.

Biosafety Level:

Biosafety level 1 laboratory settings are essential to culture the PC-3 cell line.

PC-3 cells at different stages of confluence after 1 day and 3 days of cultivation.

3.      PC-3: Advantages & Limitations

PC-3 is a famous cancer cell line associated with many pros and cons. The main advantages and limitations of the PC-3 prostate cancer cell line are discussed here.


The advantages of PC-3 cells are:

High metastatic potential

PC-3 cells are known for high metastatic potential compared to other prostate cancer cell lines. Therefore, these cells are ideal for studying cell processes and mechanisms regulating cancer cell migration and invasion.

Androgen-independent cell model

PC-3 cell line serves as a cellular model for androgen-independent prostate cancer. These cells lack AR and PSA and do not require androgen hormones for growth. Due to these features, PC-3 cells are used to study prostate cancer biology and therapeutic resistance.

Transfection flexibility

PC-3 cell line is a great transfection host. It is commonly used for gene expression studies. Different physical and chemical methods are used to transfect these cells.

Easy to culture

PC-3 cell line culturing is relatively easy. No complicated procedures are required for handling and maintenance of PC-3 cultures.



The limitations of the PC-3 cell line are:

Lack of responsiveness to the androgen receptor

As PC-3 cells are non-responsive to the androgen receptor, therefore, they cannot be used to study androgen-dependent prostate cancer.

Fast growth rate

PC-3 prostate cancer cell line has the potential to overgrow in cultures due to the fast growth rate. This may affect gene expression in cells and compromise the overall reproducibility of results.


4.      Applications of PC-3 cells

PC-3 cell line has a wide range of applications in cell and molecular biology. The most common research applications of PC-3 cells are:

  • Tumor xenograft mice model: PC-3 cells are used to develop subcutaneous tumor xenografts in mice to study tumor microenvironments and the functionality of therapeutic drugs. Several studies have used PC-3 cells to create such study models. A study conducted in 2018 used the PC-3 cell line to develop subcutaneous tumor xenografts in nude mice. This model was used to evaluate the therapeutic potential of α-Pinene, a natural compound [3].
  • Cancer Biology: PC-3 cell line is used to study the biology of prostate tumors. It helps to learn prostate cancer's underlying cell signaling pathways and mechanisms. For instance, a research study used the PC-3 cell line to study the role of long noncoding RNA MIR4435-2HG and ST8SIA1 gene in regulating prostate cancer cells' invasion, migration, and proliferation [4]. Similarly, another study utilized PC-3 prostate cancer cells and investigated that PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway is responsible for the proliferation and growth of prostate cancer cells [5].
  • Drug discovery and development: Prostate cancer cell line PC-3 is extensively applied in drug discovery research. Many potential drugs are validated by using PC-3 cells. A study conducted in 2020 explored the potential therapeutic effects of Rosemary plant extract against prostate cancer using the PC-3 cell line. This extract showed an antiproliferative effect on prostate cancer cells in comparison to the control [6].

5.      Research Publications Featuring PC-3 Cells

The following are some research publications on the PC-3 cell line.

α-Pinene inhibits human prostate cancer growth in a mouse xenograft model

This paper was published in the Chemotherapy Journal in 2018. The study proposed that α-Pinene, a terpenoid, impedes the growth of prostate cancer in a mouse xenograft model created by using PC-3 cells.

Quercetin enhanced paclitaxel therapeutic effects towards PC-3 prostate cancer through ER stress induction and ROS production

This publication in Oncotargets and therapy (2020) proposed that a combination treatment of paclitaxel and quercetin has an enhanced anticancer effect against prostate cancer.

Zingerone suppresses cell proliferation via inducing cellular apoptosis and inhibition of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway in human prostate cancer PC‐3 cells

This paper published in the Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology (2021) used PC-3 cells to investigate the antiproliferative activity of a ginger plant compound, Zingerone.

TRPM 4 regulates Akt/GSK 3‐β activity and enhances β‐catenin signaling and cell proliferation in prostate cancer cells

This study was published in the Molecular Oncology journal in 2018. It proposed that TRPM 4 gene regulates Akt/GSK 3‐β expression in PC-3 prostate cancer cells and promotes β‐catenin signalling and cell proliferation.

Root extract of a micropropagated Prunus africana medicinal plant induced apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells (PC-3) via caspase-3 activation

This publication in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2022) proposed that the root extract of a medicinal plant, Prunus africana, induced cell death in prostate cancer cells by activating the caspase-3 gene.

6.      Resources for PC-3 Cell line: Protocols, Videos, and More

PC-3 cell line is quite famous due to its captivating advantages and various research applications. Many online resources are available on this cell line. This section mentions a few resources explaining the handling, maintenance, and transfection protocol for PC-3 cells.

  • Culturing PC-3 cells: This video explains the subculturing or passaging protocol for PC-3 prostate cancer cells.
  • Freezing cells: This video contains information about cell freezing. It is a step-by-step guide to freeze cells.
  • Transfecting PC-3 cells: This website has a detailed protocol for the transfection of PC-3 cells.
  • PC-3 cell transfection: This educational video is a tutorial on in vitro transfection of PC-3 cells.

Cell culture protocols

The cell culture protocol for PC-3 cells is mentioned in the following link.


  1. Tai, S., et al., PC3 is a cell line characteristic of prostatic small cell carcinoma. The Prostate, 2011. 71(15): p. 1668-1679.
  2. Litvinov, I.V., et al., PC3, but not DU145, human prostate cancer cells retain the coregulators required for tumor suppressor ability of androgen receptor. The Prostate, 2006. 66(12): p. 1329-1338.
  3. Zhao, Y., et al., α-Pinene inhibits human prostate cancer growth in a mouse xenograft model. Chemotherapy, 2018. 63(1): p. 1-7.
  4. Xing, P., et al., Knockdown of lncRNA MIR44352HG and ST8SIA1 expression inhibits the proliferation, invasion and migration of prostate cancer cells in vitro and in vivo by blocking the activation of the FAK/AKT/βcatenin signaling pathway. International Journal of Molecular Medicine, 2021. 47(6): p. 1-13.
  5. Qian, S., et al., Zingerone suppresses cell proliferation via inducing cellular apoptosis and inhibition of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway in human prostate cancer PC‐3 cells. Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology, 2021. 35(1): p. e22611.
  6. Jaglanian, A., D. Termini, and E. Tsiani, Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) extract inhibits prostate cancer cell proliferation and survival by targeting Akt and mTOR. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 2020. 131: p. 110717.