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Acta Anat (Basel). 1996;155(2):94-103.

Stromal development in the ventral prostate, anterior prostate and seminal vesicle of the rat.

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Department of Anatomy, University of California, School of Medicine, San Francisco 94143-0452, USA.


The prostate and seminal vesicle (SV) are androgen-dependent secretory glands of the male genital tract. They produce the bulk of the seminal secretions. The object of the present study was to examine and document the ontogeny of stromal maturation in the rat anterior and ventral prostate and SV. These organs have a loosely organized cellular mesenchyme during fetal development. During prostatic development the mesenchyme condensed to form smooth muscle sheaths immediately surrounding the epithelium, with looser connective tissue between individual ducts. In the SV, a loose connective tissue layer called the lamina propria lies between the epithelium and developing muscle. Smooth muscle alpha-actin, myosin, desmin, laminin, vinculin, vimentin and androgen receptor (AR) expression were examined by immunocytochemical methods during the pre- and postnatal developmental periods. The first marker to be detected was vimentin, which was initially found throughout the mesenchyme. During development vimentin became mostly restricted to the interductal tissue of the prostate and the lamina propria of the SV. Smooth muscle markers were expressed in an orderly sequence in a proximal to distal manner along prostatic ducts, from the urethra towards the tips. Expression of alpha-actin was followed by vinculin, myosin, desmin, and laminin. These markers became localized to the developing smooth muscle sheaths and were not expressed in the interductal tissue of the prostate or the lamina propria of the SV. Organ culture experiments demonstrated that androgens were required for the differentiation of smooth muscle sheaths. Castration of adult rats demonstrated that androgens were required to maintain smooth muscle differentiation. In castrates, the stroma was relatively thicker but less dense than in intact animals. Following castration, expression of the smooth muscle markers was lost sequentially in the reverse order of their expression during development. In long-term castrates alpha-actin, vimentin and a small amount of vinculin were detected. AR were first detected in the urogenital sinus mesenchyme immediately surrounding the epithelium at 16 days of gestation. As development progressed expression of AR became more widespread, and postnatally was found throughout the mesenchyme. As maturation of smooth muscle occurred, stromal expression of AR became localized to the muscular sheath immediately surrounding the epithelium. In the prostate the interductal connective tissue displayed very low levels of AR expression. In the SV, AR were also observed in the lamina propria. In summary, stromal differentiation and dedifferentiation in the rat prostate and SV were found to be androgen-dependent processes with ordered sequential ontogenic expression of specific markers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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