Single-cell analysis of mouse and human prostate reveals novel fibroblasts with specialized distribution and microenvironment interactions

J Pathol. 2021 Oct;255(2):141-154. doi: 10.1002/path.5751. Epub 2021 Jul 22.


Stromal-epithelial interactions are critical to the morphogenesis, differentiation, and homeostasis of the prostate, but the molecular identity and anatomy of discrete stromal cell types is poorly understood. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, we identified and validated the in situ localization of three smooth muscle subtypes (prostate smooth muscle, pericytes, and vascular smooth muscle) and two novel fibroblast subtypes in human prostate. Peri-epithelial fibroblasts (APOD+) wrap around epithelial structures, whereas interstitial fibroblasts (C7+) are interspersed in extracellular matrix. In contrast, the mouse displayed three fibroblast subtypes with distinct proximal-distal and lobe-specific distribution patterns. Statistical analysis of mouse and human fibroblasts showed transcriptional correlation between mouse prostate (C3+) and urethral (Lgr5+) fibroblasts and the human interstitial fibroblast subtype. Both urethral fibroblasts (Lgr5+) and ductal fibroblasts (Wnt2+) in the mouse contribute to a proximal Wnt/Tgfb signaling niche that is absent in human prostate. Instead, human peri-epithelial fibroblasts express secreted WNT inhibitors SFRPs and DKK1, which could serve as a buffer against stromal WNT ligands by creating a localized signaling niche around individual prostate glands. We also identified proximal-distal fibroblast density differences in human prostate that could amplify stromal signaling around proximal prostate ducts. In human benign prostatic hyperplasia, fibroblast subtypes upregulate critical immunoregulatory pathways and show distinct distributions in stromal and glandular phenotypes. A detailed taxonomy of leukocytes in benign prostatic hyperplasia reveals an influx of myeloid dendritic cells, T cells and B cells, resembling a mucosal inflammatory disorder. A receptor-ligand interaction analysis of all cell types revealed a central role for fibroblasts in growth factor, morphogen, and chemokine signaling to endothelia, epithelia, and leukocytes. These data are foundational to the development of new therapeutic targets in benign prostatic hyperplasia. © 2021 The Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: benign prostatic hyperplasia; fibroblast; prostate; prostatic urethra; single-cell RNA sequencing; smooth muscle; stroma.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cellular Microenvironment / physiology*
  • Extracellular Matrix
  • Fibroblasts / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Prostate / cytology*
  • Prostatic Hyperplasia / pathology
  • Single-Cell Analysis