Objectives: The biologic mechanism for the increased proportion of noncomplexed ("free") prostate-specific antigen (PSA) found in the serum of patients with benign prostate disease is unknown. We recently reported that most of the PSA found in benign, hyperplastic, and cancerous prostatic tissue is in the free form. To determine whether specific molecular forms of free PSA are associated differentially with normal, hyperplastic, or cancerous prostatic tissue, we have further characterized the free PSA in each type of prostatic tissue.
Methods: PSA was purified by immunoaffinity chromatography from matched prostatic tissue samples of peripheral zone cancer (PZ-C), PZ noncancer (PZ-N), and transition zone (TZ) tissue from 10 large-volume (greater than 50 g) and 8 small-volume (less than 25 g) radical prostatectomy specimens. Eight TZ specimens obtained during transurethral resection of the prostate for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) were also analyzed. The different molecular forms of PSA were further resolved by high-performance hydrophobic interaction chromatography. Clipped forms of PSA were identified by N-terminal amino acid sequencing.
Results: More than 99% of the PSA in prostatic tissues was in the free, noncomplexed form. Specimens from the prostate TZ were found to contain elevated levels of an altered form of PSA, which we designated BPSA. Purified BPSA contained a distinctive cleavage at lysine 182. The median percent BPSA (%BPSA) was 11.4 in the TZ of specimens with nodular BPH compared with a %BPSA of 4.1 in the TZ of specimens without nodular BPH (P <0.0014). The median %BPSA levels of the PZ-N and PZ-C tissues ranged from 3.2 to 4.9 and were not significantly different from one another or from the %BPSA level of TZ tissues without nodular BPH.
Conclusions: We have identified a specific molecular form of clipped free PSA, called BPSA, that is increased within the prostatic TZ of patients exhibiting nodular BPH. Higher levels of percent free PSA in serum have been found to correlate strongly with prostate volume, which in turn is closely associated with the progressive enlargement of nodular BPH tissue within the TZ of the prostate. Thus, it is possible that a proportion of the serum percent free PSA found in patients with BPH may be composed of BPSA released into the serum.