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Eur J Cell Biol. 2005 Mar;84(2-3):341-54.

Identification of a stem cell candidate in the normal human prostate gland.

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Department of Pathology, Southern Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care System, 3601 S. 6th Ave., Tucson, AZ 85723, USA.


Stem cells of the human prostate gland have not yet been identified utilizing a structural biomarker. We have discovered a new prostatic epithelial cell phenotype-expressing cytokeratin 6a (Ck6a+ cells). The Ck6a+ cells are present within a specialized niche in the basal cell compartment in fetal, juvenile and adult prostate tissue, and within the stem cell-enriched urogenital sinus. In adult normal prostate tissue, the average abundance of Ck6a+ cells was 4.9%. With proliferative stimuli in the prostate organ culture model, in which the epithelial-stromal interaction was maintained, a remarkable increase of Ck6a expression was noticed to up to 64.9%. The difference in cytokeratin 6a expression between the normal adult prostate and the prostate organ culture model was statistically significant (p<0.0001). Within the prostate organ culture model the increase of cytokeratin 6a-expressing cells significantly correlated with increased proliferation index (r = 0.7616, p = 0.0467). The Ck6a+ cells were capable of differentiation as indicated by their expression of luminal cell markers such as ZO-1 and prostate specific antigen (PSA). Our data indicate that Ck6a+ cells represent a prostatic epithelial stem cell candidate possessing high potential for proliferation and differentiation. Since the development of benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate carcinogenesis are disorders of proliferation and differentiation, the Ck6a+ cells may represent a major element in the development of these diseases.

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