The functional role of reactive stroma in benign prostatic hyperplasia
The human prostate gland is one of the only internal organs that continue to enlarge throughout adulthood. The specific mechanisms that regulate this growth, as well as the pathological changes leading to the phenotype observed in the disease benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), are essentially unknown. Recent studies and their associated findings have made clear that many complex alterations occur, involving persistent and chronic inflammation, circulating hormonal level deregulation, and aberrant wound repair processes. BPH has been etiologically characterized as a progressive, albeit discontinuous, hyperplasia of both the glandular epithelial and the stromal cell compartments coordinately yielding an expansion of the prostate gland and clinical symptoms. Interestingly, the inflammatory and repair responses observed in BPH are also key components of general wound repair in post-natal tissues. These responses include altered expression of chemokines, cytokines, matrix remodeling factors, chronic inflammatory processes, altered immune surveillance and recognition, as well as the formation of a prototypical ‘reactive’ stroma, which is similar to that observed across various fibroplasias and malignancies of a variety of tissue sites. Stromal tissue, both embryonic mesenchyme and adult reactive stroma myofibroblasts, has been shown to exert potent and functional regulatory control over epithelial proliferation and differentiation as well as immunoresponsive modulation. Thus, the functional biology of a reactive stroma, within the context of an adult disease typified by epithelial and stromal aberrant hyperplasia, is critical to understand within the context of prostate disease and beyond. The mechanisms that regulate reactive stroma biology in BPH represent targets of opportunity for new therapeutic approaches that may extend to other tissue contexts. Accordingly, this review seeks to address the dissection of important factors, signaling pathways, genes, and other regulatory components that mediate the interplay between epithelium and stromal responses in BPH.