The androgen-regulated type II serine protease TMPRSS2 is differentially expressed and mislocalized in prostate adenocarcinoma

J Pathol. 2008 Jun;215(2):118-25. doi: 10.1002/path.2330.


Transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) is an androgen-regulated member of the type two transmembrane protease (TTSP) family. Two other members of the TTSP family, matriptase and hepsin, are over-expressed in prostate adenocarcinoma and mechanistically influence cancer cell invasion and metastasis. This study was performed to determine TMPRSS2 protein expression in primary and metastatic prostate cancers. We developed a monoclonal antibody capable of the sensitive and specific detection of TMPRSS2 protein. TMPRSS2 regulation by androgen and presence in seminal fluid was measured. TMPRSS2 localization and expression was evaluated in 415 cases of primary prostate cancer and 144 prostate cancer metastases by immunohistochemistry. We determined that TMPRSS2 protein expression is regulated by androgens and that TMPRSS2 is a component of the normal seminal fluid proteome. TMPRSS2 protein is abundantly expressed in the prostate, with low levels in the epithelia of the colon, stomach, epididymis and breast. Pancreatic acini, hepatic bile ducts, testicular Leydig cells and the kidney also express TMPRSS2. In the prostate, TMPRSS2 protein is specifically localized to the secretory epithelium, with enhanced expression in the plasma membrane orientated towards the ductal lumen. TMPRSS2 expression was significantly higher in both neoplastic prostate and in the epithelium of prostatic hyperplasia compared to normal epithelium (p < 0.01). TMPRSS2 expression was further elevated in higher Gleason grade cancers (patterns 4 and 5) compared to pattern 3 (p = 0.04). Furthermore, in most high-grade cancers, TMPRSS2 was mislocalized, being expressed in the cytoplasm as well as in the cell membrane. Prostate cancer metastases also generally expressed high levels of TMPRSS2. In summary, the TMPRSS2 protease is expressed highly in primary and metastatic prostate cancers and is associated with tumour cell differentiation. Based on studies with the related proteins matriptase and hepsin, TMPRSS2 should be investigated for causal roles in prostate carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / chemistry*
  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism
  • Adenocarcinoma / secondary*
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / isolation & purification
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cytoplasm / chemistry
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Serine Endopeptidases / analysis*
  • Serine Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Serine Endopeptidases / immunology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • TMPRSS2 protein, human