Background: Low serum testosterone (low T) has been repeatedly linked to worse outcomes in men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer (PC). How low T contributes to these outcomes is unknown. Here we demonstrate that exposure to low T causes significant changes in the mouse prostate and prostate stem cells.
Methods: Mice were castrated and implanted with capsules to achieve castrate, normal, or sub-physiological levels of T. After 6 weeks of treatment, LC-MS/MS was used to quantify the levels of T and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in serum and prostate tissue. FACS was used to quantify the percentages of purported prostate stem and transit amplifying (TA) cells in mouse prostates. Prostate tissues were also stained for the presence of CD68+ cells and RNA was extracted from prostate tissue or specific cell populations to measure changes in transcript levels with low T treatment.
Results: Despite having significantly different levels of T and DHT in the serum, T and DHT concentrations in prostate tissue from different T treatment groups were similar. Low T treatment resulted in significant alterations in the expression of androgen biosynthesis genes, which may be related to maintaining prostate androgen levels. Furthermore, the expression of androgen-regulated genes in the prostate was similar among all T treatment groups, demonstrating that the mouse prostate can maintain functional levels of androgens despite low serum T levels. Low T increased the frequency of prostate stem and TA cells in adult prostate tissue and caused major transcriptional changes in those cells. Gene ontology analysis suggested that low T caused inflammatory responses and immunofluorescent staining indicated that low T treatment led to the increased presence of CD68+ macrophages in prostate tissue.
Conclusions: Low T alters the AR signaling axis which likely leads to maintenance of functional levels of prostate androgens. Low T also induces quantitative and qualitative changes in prostate stem cells which appear to lead to inflammatory macrophage infiltration. These changes are proposed to lead to an aggressive phenotype once cancers develop and may contribute to the poor outcomes in men with low T. Prostate 77:530-541, 2017. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
By Ye Zhou, Ben Copeland, Maya Otto-Duessel, Miaoling He, Susan Markel, Tim W Synold & Jeremy O Jones