Incidence of apoptosis and cell proliferation in prostate cancer: Relationship with TGF-β1 and bcl-2 expression

Huacheng Tu, Stephen C. Jacobs, Andrej Borkowski, Natasha Kyprianou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


The incidence of programmed cell death (apoptosis) and cell proliferation was investigated in the normal and malignant human prostate to define the significance of their potential deregulation in human prostate cancer. The incidence of 'spontaneous' apoptosis was analyzed using an in situ end-labeling procedure for detection of nucleosomal DNA fragmentation, as well as the pattern and topological localization of expression of the 2 proteins regulating apoptosis, TGF-β1 and bcl-2, in 40 primary prostatic adenocarcinomas with varying tumor grades, 17 lymph nodes positive for metastatic prostate cancer and 9 normal prostate specimens. The basal level of cell proliferation of the different prostatic cell populations in the same specimens was determined, utilizing the Ki-67 nuclear antigen. Localized prostate cancer cells exhibited a relatively low rate of apoptosis, which was significantly lower than the apoptotic index of normal prostate glandular epithelial cells. Metastatic prostate tumor cells, however, exhibited a significantly higher apoptotic index compared with localized prostate cancer cells. A significant increase in the proliferative index was detected in prostatic tumors compared with the normal gland (5-fold), and there was an even more marked elevation in the proliferative index of the metastatic prostate tumor cells compared to the normal prostate epithelial cells (approximately 24-fold). Immunohistochemical analysis of normal and malignant prostate specimens revealed a predominant TGF-β immunoreactivity in the glandular epithelial cells, while the stromal component was totally negative. There was a significant increase in the levels of TGF-β in primary prostatic tumors compared to the normal prostate. Bcl-2 expression was detected among certain populations of tumor epithelial cells in a mutually exclusive topological distribution pattern for apoptosis. in marked contrast, neither TGF-β1 nor bcl-2 immunoreactivity was detected in metastatic prostate tumor cells, despite their high proliferative and apoptotic rates. Balancing the prostatic growth equation for the prostatic tumor epithelial cell populations revealed a substantial net increase in cell number in both primary and metastatic prostate cancers. This loss of apoptotic control in favor of cell proliferation may be responsible for prostate cancer initiation and progression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-363
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


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