Multidirectional differentiation in the normal, hyperplastic, and neoplastic human prostate: simultaneous demonstration of cell-specific epithelial markers

Hum Pathol. 1994 Jan;25(1):42-6. doi: 10.1016/0046-8177(94)90169-4.


The prostatic epithelium is composed of three distinct cell populations: secretory luminal, basal, and endocrine-paracrine cells. It is currently unknown whether these basic epithelial cell types are related in a hierarchical pathway of differentiation or are independent and separate entities. In the present study we used double-label techniques for cell-specific markers to search for multidirectional differentiation in normal, hyperplastic, and neoplastic prostate tissue. In normal and hyperplastic conditions subsets of basal cells revealed synchronous expression of basal cell-specific cytokeratins and the prostate-specific antigen, indicating intermediate differentiation between basal and secretory luminal cell types. Furthermore, endocrine-paracrine cells of the closed type focally showed simultaneous expression of chromogranin A and basal cell-specific cytokeratins. These findings highlight the phenotypic plasticity of the basal cell layer in the human prostate. In prostatic adenocarcinoma co-expression of exocrine (prostate-specific antigen) and endocrine (chromogranin A) markers was detected frequently in subsets of malignant cells. Conversely, this amphicrine phenotype was rarely found in hyperplastic glands. The occurrence of multidirectional differentiation within the prostatic endocrine cell system may indicate that endocrine-paracine cells derive from pluripotent stem cells of endodermal origin. Furthermore, the phenotypic plasticity of basal cells suggests that this epithelial compartment houses stem cell populations that give rise to all epithelial cell lineages encountered in the normal, hyperplastic, and neoplastic human prostate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Biomarkers
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Chromogranin A
  • Chromogranins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia
  • Keratins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Prostate / metabolism*
  • Prostate / pathology*
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Reference Values


  • Biomarkers
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Chromogranin A
  • Chromogranins
  • Keratins
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen