Abstract Prostatic epithelium consists mainly of luminal and basal cells, which are presumed to differentiate from common progenitor/stem cells. We hypothesize that progenitor/stem cells are highly concentrated in the embryonic urogenital sinus epithelium from which prostatic epithelial buds develop. We further hypothesize that these epithelial progenitor/stem cells are also present within the basal compartment of adult prostatic epithelium and that the spectrum of differentiation markers of embryonic and adult progenitor/stem cells will be similar. The present study demonstrates that the majority of cells in embryonic urogenital sinus epithelium and developing prostatic epithelium (rat, mouse, and human) co-expressed luminal cytokeratins 8 and 18 (CK8, CK18), the basal cell cytokeratins (CK14, CK5), p63, and the so-called transitional or intermediate cell markers, cytokeratin 19 (CK19) and glutathione-S-transferase-pi (GSTpi). The majority of luminal cells in adult rodent and human prostates only expressed luminal markers (CK8, CK18), while the basal epithelial cell compartment contained several distinct subpopulations. In the adult prostate, the predominant basal epithelial subpopulation expressed the classical basal cell markers (CK5, CK14, p63) as well as CK19 and GSTpi. However, a small fraction of adult prostatic basal epithelial cells co-expressed the full spectrum of basal and luminal epithelial cell markers (CK5, CK14, CK8, CK18, CK19, p63, GSTpi). This adult prostatic basal epithelial cell subpopulation, thus, exhibited a cell differentiation marker profile similar to that expressed in embryonic urogenital sinus epithelium. These rare adult prostatic basal epithelial cells are proposed to be the progenitor/stem cell population.
Thus, we propose that at all stages (embryonic to adult) prostatic epithelial progenitor/stem cells maintain a differentiation marker profile similar to that of the original embryonic progenitor of the prostate, namely urogenital sinus epithelium. Adult progenitor/stem cells co-express both luminal cell, basal cell, and intermediate cell markers. These progenitor/stem cells differentiate into mature luminal cells by maintaining CK8 and CK18, and losing all other makers. Progenitor/stem cells also give rise to mature basal cells by maintaining CK5, CK14, p63, CK19, and GSTpi and losing K8 and K18. Thus, adult prostate basal and luminal cells are proposed to be derived from a common pleuripotent progenitor/stem cell in the basal compartment that maintains its embryonic profile of differentiation markers from embryonic to adult stages.