Background: Advancing age is associated with substantial increases in the incidence rates of common diseases affecting the prostate gland including benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate carcinoma. The prostate is comprised of a functional secretory epithelium, a basal epithelium, and a supporting stroma comprised of structural elements, and a spectrum of cell types that includes smooth muscle cells, fibroblasts, and inflammatory cells. As reciprocal interactions between epithelium and stromal constituents are essential for normal organogenesis and serve to maintain normal functions, discordance within the stroma could permit or promote disease processes. In this study we sought to identify aging-associated alterations in the mouse prostate microenvironment that could influence pathology.
Methodology/principal findings: We quantitated transcript levels in microdissected glandular-adjacent stroma from young (age 4 months) and old (age 20-24 months) C57BL/6 mice, and identified a significant change in the expression of 1259 genes (p<0.05). These included increases in transcripts encoding proteins associated with inflammation (e.g., Ccl8, Ccl12), genotoxic/oxidative stress (e.g., Apod, Serpinb5) and other paracrine-acting effects (e.g., Cyr61). The expression of several collagen genes (e.g., Col1a1 and Col3a1) exhibited age-associated declines. By histology, immunofluorescence, and electron microscopy we determined that the collagen matrix is abundant and disorganized, smooth muscle cell orientation is disordered, and inflammatory infiltrates are significantly increased, and are comprised of macrophages, T cells and, to a lesser extent, B cells.
Conclusion/significance: These findings demonstrate that during normal aging the prostate stroma exhibits phenotypic and molecular characteristics plausibly contributing to the striking age associated pathologies affecting the prostate.