Testosterone and the prostate

John T. Isaacs, Hermann Behre

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


During evolution, mammals developed accessory sex glands, which in males of the species are named either for their anatomical position in adult animals or for their assumed functions (Price and Williams-Ashman 1961). The only gland present in all orders of male mammals, even the egg-laying monotremes, is the prostate. The term ”prostate” has an interesting but confusing history which has been extensively reviewed by Marx and Karenberg (2009). According to these authors, in ancient Greek the masculine term “prostates” literally meant “someone who stands before someone or something” and is the origin of the term “president” or “principal.” This term, however, was never used in ancient Greece in a medical sense. It was not until the Renaissance that anatomists discovered the prostate, initially naming it the “glandulous body.” In 1600 the French physician du Laurens introduced the metaphoric denomination “prostatae.” However, he and his contemporaries misinterpreted the history of the organ and the term, chose the wrong gender when translating it into Latin, and believed that it designated a double organ. Only in the 1800s was this anatomical error corrected, while the grammatical one lived on in the term “prostate.” Thus, the gland that in male mammals “stands before” the base of the bladder and produces and releases secretion into the male ejaculate is defined as the prostate. In most male mammals, there are additional glands that likewise release excretion into the ejaculate, and these glands are given a variety of names depending on the species. In humans, the male accessory sex tissues consist of the prostate including the periurethral glands (aka glands of Littre), seminal vesicles, and bulbourethral glands (Cowper's glands) (Fig. 13.1). Although it is believed that the prostate is important in protecting the lower urinary tract from infection and for fertility, it is frequently the site of infection and inflammation, and sperm harvested from the epididymis without exposure to seminal or prostatic fluid can produce fertilization and successful birth (Silver et al. 1988). Thus, the prostate makes nothing that is absolutely required for male fertility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTestosterone
Subtitle of host publicationAction, Deficiency, Substitution, Fourth Edition
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781139003353
ISBN (Print)9781107012905
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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