Purpose: We investigated the role of peptide growth factors and androgens in the developing human prostate.
Materials and methods: We performed immunohistochemical staining of prostate tissue sections from human fetuses 9.5, 11.5, 13, 16.5, 18 and 20 weeks in gestation.
Results: The temporal and spatial expression of these growth factors was related to the gestational androgen surge. Before the androgen surge (9.5 to 11.5 weeks) transforming growth factor (TGF)-alpha, TGF-beta1 and TGF-beta3 but not TGF-beta2 were present in the mesenchyme. The epithelium exhibited no detectable staining for any of the growth factors. During the androgen peak (13 to 16.5 weeks) TGF-beta1 decreased and TGF-beta2 increased in the mesenchyme, and TGF-alpha, TGF-beta1 and TGF-beta3 increased in the epithelium. With declining androgen levels TGF-alpha, TGF-beta2 and TGF-beta3 remained unchanged but TGF-beta1 increased in the mesenchyme with no change in the tested peptide growth factor levels in the epithelium.
Conclusions: These data suggest that androgens regulate the differential expression of TGF-alpha and TGF-beta, and support a role for peptide growth factors as the direct mediators of androgen action on the mesenchymal and epithelial interactions responsible for prostate development.