Within the first 24 h after castration of an adult male rat, the vascular system of the ventral prostate gland undergoes a degenerative process that drastically reduces blood flow to the tissue. Since the vascular degeneration precedes the loss of the prostatic epithelium (by apoptosis), we have proposed that the onset of epithelial cell apoptosis in this tissue is caused by an ischemic/hypoxic environment resulting from the loss of blood flow. In order to further evaluate the extent to which ischemia/hypoxia might be a factor in apoptosis of the prostate epithelium after castration, we analyzed for biomarkers of cellular hypoxia in rat ventral prostates during the first 3 days following castration. Ventral prostate tissues removed from hypoxyprobe-1-treated adult male rats (uncastrated controls; surgically castrated for 24, 48 or 72 h, or sham-castrated for equivalent times) were directly analyzed for evidence of hypoxia by in situ immunohistochemical evaluation of hypoxyprobe-1 adduct formation in the prostate cells. Protein extracts from these tissues were also tested for expression of the 120 kDa hypoxia-inducible factor-1-alpha (HIF-1-alpha) protein as well as for expression of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) proteins using a Western blot assay. The tyrosine phosphorylation status of the latter signaling molecules was also evaluated by Western blotting using anti-tyrosine phosphate antibodies. Our results showed that epithelial cells of the rat ventral prostate stained positively for hypoxyprobe-1 adducts at all times after castration, whereas cells in control tissues were unstained by this procedure. In addition, the prostatic expression of HIF-1-alpha protein was increased approximately 20-fold at 48 h after castration compared to control tissues. Finally, although prostatic MAPK and JNK protein expression was unaltered during the early period after castration, phosphorylation of the JUN kinase protein was significantly elevated, indicating that this stress-activated cellular signaling pathway becomes more active subsequent to castration. These results support our proposal that early castration-induced degeneration and constriction of the vascular system of the rat ventral prostate gland leads to reduced oxygenation of prostatic epithelial cells and the activation of hypoxic cellular signaling in these cells through upregulation of HIF-1-alpha expression and stimulation of the JUN kinase signaling pathway.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.