Markers of prostate region-specific epithelial identity define anatomical locations in the mouse prostate that are molecularly similar to human prostate cancers

Joshua L. Thielen, Katherine G. Volzing, Lara S. Collier, Laura E. Green, David A. Largaespada, Paul C. Marker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Although the basic functions of the prostate gland are conserved among mammals, its morphology varies greatly among species. Comparative studies between mouse and human are important because mice are widely used to study prostate cancer, a disease that occurs in a region-restricted manner within the human prostate. An informatics-based approach was used to identify prostate-specific human genes as candidate markers of region-specific identity that might distinguish prostatic ducts prone to prostate cancer from ducts that rarely give rise to cancer. Subsequent analysis of normal and cancerous human prostates demonstrated that the genes microseminoprotein-β (MSMB) and transglutaminase 4 (TGM4) were expressed in distinct groups of ducts in the normal human prostate, and only MSMB was detected in areas of prostate cancer. The mouse orthologs of MSMB and TGM4 were then used for expression studies in mice along with the mouse ventrally expressed gene spermine binding protein (SBP). All three genes were informative markers of region-specific epithelial identity with distinct expression patterns that collectively accounted for all ducts in the mouse prostate. Together with the human data, this suggested that MSMB expression defines an anatomical domain in the mouse prostate that is molecularly most similar to human prostate cancers. Computer-assisted serial section reconstruction was used to visualize the complete expression domains for MSMB, SBP, and TGM4 in the mouse prostate. This showed that MSMB is expressed in prostatic ducts that comprise 21% of the mouse dorso-lateral prostate. Finally, the expression of MSMB, SBP, and TGM4 was evaluated in a mouse prostate cancer model created by the prostate epithelium-specific deletion of the tumor suppressor PTEN. MSMB and TGM4 were rapidly and dramatically down-regulated in response to PTEN deletion suggesting that this model of prostate cancer includes a more rapid de-differentiation of the prostatic epithelium than is observed in organ-confined human prostate cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-61
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We thank Sheri Kuslak and Margaret Joesting for their useful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by grant DK069662 from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. L. S. C. was supported by postdoctoral fellowship PF-153-01 from the American Cancer Society.


  • Human
  • MSMB
  • Microseminoprotein-β
  • Mouse
  • PTEN
  • Prostate cancer
  • Prostate gland
  • SBP
  • Spermine binding protein
  • TGM4
  • Transglutaminase 4


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