Many factors are implicated in the development of prostatic growth: androgens, growth factors, and stromo-epithelial interaction. This study examines the role of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system control of different aspects of rat prostate growth and atrophy. Unilateral sympathectomy leads to decreases in ventral prostate weight, DNA, and protein content in the lesioned side. Unilateral parasympathectomy leads to increases in ventral prostate weight, DNA, and protein content in the intact side. The separate effects of sympathectomy and parasympathectomy are maintained across a diverse combination of neural manipulations. Significant re-innervation does not occur by 60 days after manipulation as assessed by tissue norepinephrine levels. There appears to be a differential effect of the autonomic nervous system on growth and maintenance of the ventral prostate. The mechanism of contralateral hyperplasia and ipsilateral atrophy has potential significance in understanding human abnormal prostate growth.