Actions of Estrogenic Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals on Human Prostate Stem/Progenitor Cells and Prostate Carcinogenesis

Dan-Ping Hu, Wen-Yang Hu*, Lishi Xie, Ye Li, Lynn Birch, Gail S. Prins
Department of Urology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 820 South Wood Street, Suite 132, M/C 955, Chicago, IL, 60612, USA

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© Hu et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Urology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 820 South Wood Street, Suite 132, Chicago, IL, 60612, USA; Tel: 312-413-1944; Fax: 312-996-9649; Email:


Substantial evidences from epidemiological and animal-based studies indicate that early exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) during the developmental stage results in a variety of disorders including cancer. Previous studies have demonstrated that early estrogen exposure results in life-long reprogramming of the prostate gland that leads to an increased incidence of prostatic lesions with aging. We have recently documented that bisphenol A (BPA), one of the most studied EDCs with estrogenic activity has similar effects in increasing prostate carcinogenic potential, supporting the connection between EDCs exposure and prostate cancer risk. It is well accepted that stem cells play a crucial role in development and cancer. Accumulating evidence suggest that stem cells are regulated by extrinsic factors and may be the potential target of hormonal carcinogenesis. Estrogenic EDCs which interfere with normal hormonal signaling may perturb prostate stem cell fate by directly reprogramming stem cells or breaking down the stem cell niche. Transformation of stem cells into cancer stem cells may underlie cancer initiation accounting for cancer recurrence, which becomes a critical therapeutic target of cancer management. We therefore propose that estrogenic EDCs may influence the development and progression of prostate cancer through reprogramming and transforming the prostate stem and early stage progenitor cells. In this review, we summarize our current studies and have updated recent advances highlighting estrogenic EDCs on prostate carcinogenesis by possible targeting prostate stem/progenitor cells. Using novel stem cell assays we have demonstrated that human prostate stem/progenitor cells express estrogen receptors (ER) and are directly modulated by estrogenic EDCs. Moreover, employing an in vivo humanized chimeric prostate model, we further demonstrated that estrogenic EDCs initiate and promote prostatic carcinogenesis in an androgen-supported environment. These findings support our hypothesis that prostate stem/progenitor cells may be the direct targets of estrogenic EDCs as a consequence of developmental exposure which carry permanent reprogrammed epigenetic and oncogenic events and subsequently deposit into cancer initiation and progression in adulthood.

Keywords: Endocrine disrupting chemicals, estrogen, prostate carcinogenesis, prostate stem/progenitor cells, stem cell division.