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Tumori. 1996 Jan-Feb;82(1):72-7.

Biochemical characteristics and recent biological knowledge on prostate-specific antigen.

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Nuclear Medicine Department, Istituto Nazionale per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori, Milano, Italy.


Since its identification in seminal fluid in 1971, much new information has been obtained about the biology and expression of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). PSA is a glycoprotein composed of 93% amino acids and 7% carbohydrates, with a molecular weight of about 30,000 Da. Functionally and structurally PSA is a kallikrein-like serine protease, and its physiologic role is degradation of the major proteins of seminal coagulum (semenogelin I and II, fibronectin), which leads to semen liquefaction. The PSA gene is located on the 13q region of chromosome 19, and it has a high degree of homology (more than 80%) with genes of the human glandular kallikrein (hKGK1). PSA production and expression are preferentially but not exclusively associated to the normal, benign hyperplastic and cancerous tissues of the prostate. In fact, it has been demonstrated that PSA is also present in accessory male sex glands and breast cancer. It was recently reported that PSA was also present in milk of lactating women. Many factors may influence PSA synthesis and production, and among them the most important are androgen, retinoic acid and growth factor stimulation. Significant advances have been recently made as regards the molecular isoforms of PSA. In the seminal fluid PSA seems partially bound to a serpine (protein C inhibitor), whereas in serum it is predominantly associated to alpha-1-antichymotrypsin and in a small quantity to alpha-2-macroglobulin. These new findings will have implications for the clinical application of PSA as a tumor marker for prostate cancer.

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