Identification of distinct populations of prostasomes that differentially express prostate stem cell antigen, annexin A1, and GLIPR2 in humans

Biol Reprod. 2012 Mar 22;86(3):82. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.111.095760. Print 2012 Mar.


In addition to sperm cells, seminal fluid contains various small membranous vesicles. These include prostasomes, membrane vesicles secreted by prostate epithelial cells. Prostasomes have been proposed to perform a variety of functions, including modulation of (immune) cell activity within the female reproductive tract and stimulation of sperm motility and capacitation. How prostasomes mediate such diverse functions, however, remains unclear. In many studies, vesicles from the seminal plasma have been categorized collectively as a single population of prostasomes; in fact, they more likely represent a heterogeneous mixture of vesicles produced by different reproductive glands and secretory mechanisms. We here characterized membranous vesicles from seminal fluid obtained from vasectomized men, thereby excluding material from the testes or epididymides. Two distinct populations of vesicles with characteristic sizes (56 ± 13 nm vs. 105 ± 25 nm) but similar equilibrium buoyant density (∼1.15 g/ml) could be separated by using the distinct rates with which they floated into sucrose gradients. Both types of vesicle resembled exosomes in terms of their buoyant density, size, and the presence of the ubiquitous exosome marker CD9. The protein GLIPR2 was found to be specifically enriched in the lumen of the smaller vesicles, while annexin A1 was uniquely associated with the surface of the larger vesicles. Prostate stem-cell antigen (PSCA), a prostate-specific protein, was present on both populations, thereby confirming their origin. PSCA was, however, absent from membrane vesicles in the seminal fluid of some donors, indicating heterogeneity of prostasome characteristics between individuals.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Annexin A1 / metabolism*
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / metabolism*
  • Cytoplasmic Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Cytoplasmic Vesicles / ultrastructure
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • GPI-Linked Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Prostate / cytology*
  • Prostate / ultrastructure
  • Semen / cytology
  • Vasectomy


  • Annexin A1
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • GLIPR2 protein, human
  • GPI-Linked Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • PSCA protein, human