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HistochemicaI Journal 17, 564-566 (i985)

Enzyme histochemical profile of the adult

human female prostate (paraurethral glands)
M. Z A V I A C I C *, A. Z A V I A C I C O V A 2, J. O B E R U C O V A 3,
M. Z A J i C K O V A ~ and J. B L A I Z E K O V A ~
1Institute of Pathology, Comenius University, Bratislava and Hislochemistry and Ultrastructural
Pathology Research Laboratory, Medical Bionics Research Institute, Bratis]ava, Czechoslovakia
2Institute of National Health of Bratislava City, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia
3 Department of Forensic Medicine, Comenius University, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia

Since the first half of the 18th century, the paraurethral ducts and glands of women have
been considered to be the homologue of the male prostate gland. So far, however, the
notion of the female prostate has been based on embryological findings demonstrating
that the paraurethral glands and ducts develop from the same embryonic tissues as the
male prostate (Campbell, 1954; Egloff, 1972; Longo, 1982). Despite the continuing
interest in the female prostate, we were the first to publish histochemical studies on l:he
enzymfc equipment of the female prostate (Zavia~i[:, 1984a,b); as yet, its ultrastructural
appearance is unknown and its function has only been speculatively suggested. This lack
of information may be explained not only by difficulties in obtaining optima, lly fresh
tissue for histochemical examination, but also by the prevailing opinion that only a
vestigial prostatic struct:ure is developed in the female.
In the present study, we examined the activity of various enzymes in glandular and
ductal components of the human female prostate. The conventional and special
histochemical techniques used for demonstration of enzymes included the semipermeable
membrane method for the demonstration of hydrolases and agar gel media for
dehydrogenases: Enzyme histochemical studies were performed on material obtained at
necropsy of 14 women aged between 15 and 45 years. The majority of cases were sudden
deaths in road traffic accidents. We excised two or four segments from the anterior part of
the urethra (behind the meatus) vertically to its long axis and one segment each from the
medial and posterior urethra. The specimens were frozen in petroleum ether in an
acetone-dry ice mixture at - 7 6 ~ C, and cryostat sections cut at - 2 0 ~ C.
Formaldehyde- and tartrate-resistant, but fluoride-sensitive acid phosphatase
(EC showed a high activity in the paraurethral glands (Fig. 1), in the glands
located directly in the epithelium of the ducts and in individual APUD cells of the
epithelial lining of the ducts and urethra. When the semipermeable membrane technique
was used in conjunction with a long incubation time in the cold, a low activity was also

0018-2214/85 $03.00+.i2 9 1955 Chapman and Hall LLd.

Enzyme histodhemicaI profile of the adult human female prostate (paraurethrai glands) 565

Fig, 1, High activityof acidphosphatasein paraure~hraIglandsand in glandsdirectlyabove the epithelium

of the ducts. The enzymeis absentin the epitheliumitself. 17-year-oldfemale.NaphthoIAS-BIphosphate,
hexazotized Pararosanaline,semipermeablemembrane ted~nique,pH 5.4. • 130.

seen in the epithelium of the paraurethrai ducts. The histochemical reaction of acid
phosphatase by the azo-coupling or Gomori's precipitation technique distinguished the
glandular components (paraurethral glands) of the female prostate, where the reaction
was very pronounced, from the ductal parts of the prostatic tissue (paraurethral ducts),
where the activity was absent or minimal. Similar differentiation was achieved using
other enzymes; for naphthy[ esterase and glucose-6-phosphatase, the glandular
component of the female prostate showing a relatively high activity was readily
distinguished from the epithelial lining of the ducts, where these enzymes were absent or
displayed a very low activity. The notion of the secretory function of the glands of the
female prostate was supported by the findings obtained in studying E-600-sensitive
naphthyl esterase and glucose-6-phosphatase. Both glandular and ductal components of
the female prostate displayed activity for various dehydrogenases, mitochondriaI
glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase invariably being the strongest.
The female prostate was found to have enzymic equipment characteristic of prostatic
tissue. For several enzymes, the pattern is different in the glandular and ducta] parts.
These findings probably reflect the diverse functions of the two strucI:urally different
parts of the female prostate and support the notion of the non-vestigial role of the
prostate in women.
v v

566 Z A V I A C I C et aI.

CAMPBELL, M. (1954) Urology, pp. 1579. Philadelphia: Saunders.
EGLOFF, B. (1972) Pathologische Anatomie der weiblichen Urethra. In Handbuch der Pathologischen
Anatomie VII/4 Weibliche Geschlechtsorgane (edited by LUBARSCH,O., HENKE,F., ROSSLE,R. and
UEHLINGER, E.), pp. 433-88. Berlin, New York: Springer Verlag.
LONGO, V. J. (1982) The female prostate. Urology 20, 108-9.
ZAVIACIC,'M. (I984a) Enzyme histochemistry of the adult human female prostate. Acid phosphatase
distribution. Cell. molec. Biol. In press.
ZAVIACIC, M. (1984b) Enzyme histochemistry of the adult human female prostate. Hydrolase and
dehydrogenase distribution. Ceil molec. Biol. In press.