ABSTRACT

Stromal androgen-receptor (AR) action is essential for prostate development, morphogenesis and regeneration. However, mechanisms underlying how stromal AR maintains the cell niche in support of pubertal prostatic epithelial growth are unknown. Here, using advanced mouse genetic tools, we demonstrate that selective deletion of stromal AR expression in prepubescent Shh-responsive Gli1-expressing cells significantly impedes pubertal prostate epithelial growth and development. Single-cell transcriptomic analyses showed that AR loss in these prepubescent Gli1-expressing cells dysregulates androgen signaling-initiated stromal-epithelial paracrine interactions, leading to growth retardation of pubertal prostate epithelia and significant development defects. Specifically, AR loss elevates Shh-signaling activation in both prostatic stromal and adjacent epithelial cells, directly inhibiting prostatic epithelial growth. Single-cell trajectory analyses further identified aberrant differentiation fates of prostatic epithelial cells directly altered by stromal AR deletion. In vivo recombination of AR-deficient stromal Gli1-lineage cells with wild-type prostatic epithelial cells failed to develop normal prostatic epithelia. These data demonstrate previously unidentified mechanisms underlying how stromal AR-signaling facilitates Shh-mediated cell niches in pubertal prostatic epithelial growth and development.

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