Prune belly syndrome (PBS) has been recognized since 1950 as the triad of absent abdominal wall musculature, undescended testes, and urinary tract anomalies. The etiology, however, remains uncertain. Theories of mesenchymal maldevelopment, obstruction, and genetic origin have been proposed. To evaluate the role of lower urinary tract obstruction as it relates to prostatic development and PBS, we studied the lower urinary tract of 15 cases of PBS, 8 cases of posterior urethral valves (PUV), and 34 age-matched controls. It is generally accepted that prostatic growth and development are dependent on mesenchymal-epithelial interactions. We evaluated the mesenchymal and epithelial differentiation and relationships, and found distinctly different and consistent abnormalities between PBS and PUV as compared with one another and controls. The findings suggest that in PBS, prostatic growth and development are hindered because of destruction or absence of the appropriate primitive mesenchyme. Our studies could not definitely exclude very early obstruction as a cause of the findings because of lack of appropriate fetal material.