Expression of hedgehog pathway components in prostate carcinoma microenvironment: shifting the balance towards autocrine signalling

Histopathology. 2011 Jun;58(7):1037-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2559.2011.03860.x.


Aims: The hedgehog (Hh) signalling pathway has been implicated in the pathogenesis and aggressiveness of prostate cancer through epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. The aim of this study was to elucidate the cell-type partitioned expression of the Hh pathway biomarkers in the non-neoplastic and tumour microenvironments and to correlate it with the grade and stage of prostate cancer.

Methods and results: Expression of the Hh pathway components (Shh, Smo, Ptch, Gli1) in the microenvironment of non-neoplastic peripheral zone (n = 119), hormone-naive primary prostate carcinoma (n = 141) and castrate-resistant bone marrow metastases (n = 53) was analysed using immunohistochemistry in tissue microarrays and bone marrow sections. Results showed that epithelial Shh, Smo and Ptch expression was up-regulated, whereas stromal Smo, Ptch, and Gli1 expression was down-regulated in prostate carcinomas compared to non-neoplastic peripheral zone tissue. Ptch expression was modulated further in high-grade and high-stage primary tumours and in bone marrow metastases. Hh signalling correlated with ki67 and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) but not with CD31 expression.

Conclusion: Our results highlight the importance of Hh-mediated epithelial-mesenchymal interactions in the non-neoplastic prostate and imply that shifting the balance from paracrine towards autocrine signalling is important in the pathogenesis and progression of prostate carcinoma.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism*
  • Adenocarcinoma / secondary
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autocrine Communication / physiology*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow Neoplasms / secondary
  • Hedgehog Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tissue Array Analysis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • SHH protein, human