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Keywords:

  • urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA);
  • uPA receptor (uPAR);
  • prostate;
  • prostatic development;
  • rat development;
  • organ culture;
  • tissue differentiation;
  • protease receptors;
  • apoptosis;
  • uPAR expression

Abstract The plasma membrane urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) localizes and enhances activation of pro-uPA. Active uPA, in turn, promotes increased degradation of the extracellular matrix (ECM) by activation of plasminogen. uPAR binds to ECM molecules and integrins, which can affect cellular adhesion, signal transduction, and gene regulation. The current study examines the expression and function of uPAR in developing rat ventral prostates (VPs). We report that newborn VPs express uPAR mRNA and protein. In addition, the function of uPAR-bound uPA during in vitro prostatic development was studied by adding recombinant peptide competitive inhibitors of uPA-uPAR binding. Newborn VP explants were cultured in serum-free media for one week with 10−8 M testosterone plus chimeric peptides containing a human immunoglobulin G Fc domain and either human uPA amino acids 1 – 138 (hu-uPA 1 – 138) as a control or mouse uPA amino acids 1 – 138 (mo-uPA 1 – 138) or 1 – 48 (mo-uPA 1 – 48). Hu-uPA 1 – 138-treated VPs underwent normal ductal branching morphogenesis and tissue differentiation. In contrast, VPs treated with mo-uPA 1 – 138 or mo-uPA 1 – 48 displayed a dose-dependent perturbation of ductal branching. Differentiation of both epithelial and mesenchymal tissues was also impaired. Mo-uPA 1 – 48-treated VPs contained significantly more apoptotic cells. These observations suggest that disruption of uPA binding to uPAR results in a retardation of the development of newborn VPs.