Prostate-specific membrane antigen is a type II membrane protein with folate hydrolase activity produced by prostatic epithelium. The expression of this molecule has also been documented in extraprostatic tissues, including small bowel and brain. In the present study, an extensive immunohistochemical analysis was performed on a panel of well-characterized normal and malignant human tissues to further define the pattern of prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) expression. Detectable PSMA levels were identified in prostatic epithelium, duodenal mucosa, and a subset of proximal renal tubules. A subpopulation of neuroendocrine cells in the colonic crypts also exhibited PSMA immunoreactivity. All other normal tissues, including cerebral cortex and cerebellum, had undetectable levels of PSMA. Thirty-three of 35 primary prostate adenocarcinomas and 7 of 8 lymph node metastases displayed tumor cell PSMA immunostaining. Eight of 18 prostate tumors metastatic to bone expressed PSMA. All of the other nonprostatic primary tumors studied had undetectable PSMA levels. However, intense staining was observed in endothelial cells of capillary vessels in peritumoral and endotumoral areas of certain malignancies, including 8 of 17 renal cell carcinomas, 7 of 13 transitional cell carcinomas, and 3 of 19 colon carcinomas. Extraprostatic PSMA expression appears to be highly restricted. Nevertheless, its diverse anatomical distribution implies a broader functional significance than previously suspected. The decrease in PSMA immunoreactivity noted in advanced prostate cancer suggests that expression of this molecule may be linked to the degree of tumor differentiation. The neoexpression of PSMA in endothelial cells of capillary beds in certain tumors may be related to tumor angiogenesis and suggests a potential mechanism for specific targeting of tumor neovasculature.

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