Cellular compartments in mature prostatic epithelia

Three main cell types are discernible in normal, mature prostatic epithelium: basal, secretory luminal, and neuroendocrine. The luminal or glandular cells constitute the exocrine compartment of the prostate, secreting prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP) into the glandular lumina. They are terminally differentiated and represent the major cell type in normal and hyperplastic epithelium. They express high levels of the androgen receptor (AR) (18,19) and are dependent on androgens for their survival (20).

In contrast, basal cells are relatively undifferentiated and without secretory activity. As the name suggests, basal cells rest on the basement membrane; morphologically, they range from small, flattened to cuboidal cells. They express low or undetectable levels of AR (21) and are independent of androgens for their survival (20). Basal cells focally express the estrogen receptor and proliferate under estrogen therapy (22).

Significant populations of neuroendocrine cells also reside among the more abundant secretory epithelium in the normal prostate gland. These cells are found in the epithelium of the acini and in ducts of all parts of the gland. The major type of neuroendocrine cell contains serotonin and thyroid-stimulating hormone. Neuroendocrine cells are terminally differentiated, postmitotic cell types that are androgen insensitive (23).

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