Evidence for atrophy and apoptosis in the ventral prostate of rats
given the 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor finasteride.
Castration causes cell loss in the rat ventral prostate through a process called apoptosis.
Although 5 alpha-reductase inhibition also causes prostate cell loss, the mechanisms involved have been debated.
To investigate this question further, we have evaluated the histological responses of the rat ventral prostate to both castration and 5 alpha-reductase inhibition.
Rats were left intact, castrated, or given the selective 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor finasteride.
After 4, 9, 14, and 21 days the prostates were excised, the androgen and DNA content determined, and the tissue was subjected to histological and histomorphometric analysis.
Finasteride and castration decreased prostate weight at day 21 by 65% and 93%, respectively. Castration decreased DNA content (micrograms per prostate) by a maximum of 88% at 14 days. Finasteride had no significant effect on DNA content after 4 days and decreased DNA content by a maximum of 52% at 14 days.
When castrate prostate sections were stained for tissue transglutaminase, a marker of apoptotic cell death, a maximum of 23% of epithelial cells were stained by day 14 with a return to control levels by day 21.
Finasteride caused a less intense increase in staining in which 16% of epithelial cells stained for tissue transglutaminase on day 9 with a return to baseline by day 14.
When prostate sections were stained for DNA breaks, another marker of cell death, castration, caused a peak of staining on day 4 with 6% of epithelial cells staining and a return to near control levels by day 21.
Finasteride-induced staining was less intense with peak staining at day 4 (0.7% of epithelial cells) and a return to control values by day 9. Morphometrics were used to assess the effect of castration and finasteride on prostate duct size and epithelial cell mass.
After 4 days of finasteride treatment, the mean ductal mass decreased by 47%, with no significant change thereafter. The mean epithelial cell mass decreased by 15% on day 4 and 60% on day 9, with no further decrease thereafter.
Castration caused a more rapid and greater decrease in both morphometric parameters with a 95% reduction in the mass of prostate ducts and a 93% decrease in epithelial cell mass by day 9.
We conclude that castration induces a more profound involution of the rat ventral prostate than does 5 alpha-reductase inhibition. Cell loss occurs in both groups, but the degree of cell loss is less with finasteride.
(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)