The prostate gland in the brushtail possum grows and regresses seasonally. It has similarities to the human prostate and may therefore provide a unique model for investigating prostatic hyperplasia. Oxytocin has been implicated in the regulation of prostate growth in eutherian mammals, and the initial aim of this study was to identify and localize the marsupial equivalent, mesotocin, and its receptor in the prostate of the brushtail possum. Seasonal changes in prostatic mesotocin concentrations and receptor localization were then assessed and related to prostate growth. Mesotocin and mesotocin receptor gene transcripts with high sequence homology to eutherian oxytocin/oxytocin receptors were demonstrated, and mesotocin, neurophysin, and the receptor were all localized predominantly in the epithelial cells of the glandular acini. Western blot analysis confirmed the presence of a single immunoreactive receptor protein of ∼60 Mr−3. Prostatic mesotocin concentrations were highest immediately before the increases in prostate weight associated with the autumn and spring breeding periods. At this time, mesotocin receptors were also present in the prostatic capsule in addition to those present in the glandular tissue. Mesotocin concentrations proceeded to decrease in association with the regression of prostate size toward the end of the breeding periods. No significant differences were present in serum testosterone or dihydrotestosterone throughout the year. The identification of mesotocin and its receptor in the possum prostate and the demonstration of seasonal changes in local mesotocin concentrations preceding changes in prostate size suggests that mesotocin may play a physiological role in regulating prostate growth and regression.
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