Recent studies have found that blood flow to the rat ventral prostate gland is drastically reduced at an early time after castration. These observations caused us to reevaluate the effects of castration on the various cell populations of the ventral prostate, especially those in the prostatic vascular system. Sections of ventral prostate glands obtained at different times after castration were analyzed using the TUNEL (terminal deoxynucleotide transferase-mediated dUTP nick END labeling) staining method to quantify apoptosis in different cell types. The results of this analysis showed a significant increase in TUNEL staining of prostate endothelial and (nonendothelial) stromal cells as early as 12 h postcastration that continued to 24 h after castration. In contrast, TUNEL labeling of prostate epithelial cells was not significantly increased compared with control values until 72 h after castration. The use of dual immunohistochemical staining procedures (anti-CD31 for endothelial cells or antismooth muscle actin for smooth muscle cells combined with TUNEL labeling) allowed us to confirm that the TUNEL- positive vascular cells at these early times after castration were endothelial in nature, whereas smooth muscle cells surrounding the prostate glands or portions of the afferent vascular endothelium were rarely TUNEL labeled. Electron microscopic evaluation of ventral prostate tissues at 48 h after castration provided further morphological evidence for the occurrence of apoptosis in prostate endothelial cells. Finally, the Lendrum-Fraser histochemical procedure used to identify fibrin leakage in tissues with vascular damage was applied to sections of the ventral prostate gland. This stain revealed diffuse fibrin accumulation in periglandular areas outside the capillaries and blood vessels in prostates from 24-h castrated rats, but not in prostates of sham-operated rats. Our results confirm an early effect of castration on the vascular system of the rat ventral prostate identified by increased apoptosis of endothelial cells and vascular leakiness. As these changes temporally precede the loss of epithelial cells, we propose that they may be causal rather than incidental to regression of the rat ventral prostate after castration.
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