Glandular epithelial cells of the rat ventral prostate undergo programmed cell death in vivo following androgen ablation. Fragmentation of the prostatic DNA is an irreversible commitment step in this programmed cell death process. The amount of prostatic DNA fragmentation thus is a quantitative measure of the number of androgen-dependent prostatic glandular cells undergoing programmed death. An in vitro organ culture system was devised for determining rates of prostatic programmed cell death based upon the daily percentage of prostatic DNA fragmentation. To do this, rats were castrated and 2 weeks later treated in vivo for 3 days with exogeneous androgen replacement to maximally stimulate DNA synthesis (i.e. proliferation) of the ventral prostatic glandular cells. In vitro organ cultures were established from these ventral prostates and the DNA of these explants was125I-labeled by incubation in media containing [125I]iododeoxyuridine ([125I]IDU). Using this in vivoin vitro DNA labeling technique, greater than 85% of the [125I] IDU radioactivity was incorporated into DNA of the prostatic explants glandular cells. The decrease in125I-radioactivity from prostatic explants was determined for over a 10-day period of organ culture. Using regression analysis of these data, the daily rate of programmed cell death of the glandular cells was determined. To test the validity of the method, organ cultures were maintained in media capable of inducing either necrotic (i.e. HgCl2-containing media) or programmed cell death (i.e. media lacking testosterone) and the daily decrease in the percentage of [125I]IDU retained in the tissue determined. In addition, the morphologic appearance of necrotic vs apoptotic cell death (i.e. programmed) was quantitated and compared to the [125I]IDU data. These studies demonstrated that this [125I]IDU labeled rat prostatic organ culture system can be used as an in vitro screen to quantitate the ability of various test agents to activate the programmed cell death pathway in prostatic glandular cells.
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