Progenitors in prostate development and disease

Dev Biol. 2021 May;473:50-58. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2020.11.012. Epub 2021 Jan 30.


The prostate develops by epithelial budding and branching processes that occur during fetal and postnatal stages. The adult prostate demonstrates remarkable regenerative capacity, with the ability to regrow to its original size over multiple cycles of castration and androgen administration. This capacity for controlled regeneration prompted the search for an androgen-independent epithelial progenitor in benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer (PCa). BPH is hypothesized to be a reawakening of ductal branching, resulting in the formation of new proximal glands, all while androgen levels are decreasing in the aging male. Advanced prostate cancer can be slowed with androgen deprivation, but resistance eventually occurs, suggesting the existence of an androgen-independent progenitor. Recent studies indicate that there are multiple castration-insensitive epithelial cell types in the proximal area of the prostate, but not all act as progenitors during prostate development or regeneration. This review highlights how recent cellular and anatomical studies are changing our perspective on the identity of the prostate progenitor.

Keywords: Androgen independent; Development; Lineage tracing; Morphogenesis; Progenitor; Prostate; Urethra.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Androgen Antagonists / metabolism
  • Androgens / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Organogenesis
  • Prostate / embryology
  • Prostate / metabolism*
  • Prostate / pathology*
  • Prostatic Hyperplasia / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Androgens