Stem cells in prostatic epithelia

Int J Exp Pathol. 1997 Oct;78(5):311-29. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2613.1997.380368.x.


The normal prostate is, structurally and functionally, a highly complex glandular tissue in which populations of epithelial and stromal cells interact, one with the other, and are under a constant state of proliferation, differentiation, elimination and selective secondary replenishment so that functional integrity of the tissue is maintained. The ability of normal prostatic tissue to maintain its structure and function is dependent upon retention of cells, generally regarded as 'stem cells', which are able to respond by proliferation and selective differentiation within a wide range of phenotypic alternatives. With respect to cells in the epithelial compartment, replenishment is possible at several levels from within distinct pathways of normal cellular differentiation. It is now appreciated that fully differentiated prostatic epithelial cells retain a far greater degree of phenotypic 'plasticity' than was earlier apparent from morphological examination of the intact tissue. This inherent plasticity, coupled with the ability of the intact tissue to respond to diverse environmental (particularly humoral) stimuli by regenerating a wide and divergent spectrum of functional prostatic epithelial phenotypes is its strength--but also its weakness. Disturbance and distortion of the homeostatic regulatory mechanisms, whether physical or humoral, which control the normal sequence of epithelial proliferation, differentiation and elimination exposes these cells, particularly multipotent 'stem cells', to an increased probability of genetic change, thus resulting in either transient, or permanent, neoplastic transformation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Basement Membrane / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prostate / cytology*
  • Prostatic Hyperplasia / pathology
  • Prostatic Intraepithelial Neoplasia / pathology
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / pathology
  • Stromal Cells / cytology