Numerous mouse models of prostate carcinogenesis have been developed, but hitherto there has been no model in which the prostate gland could be imaged in live animals. The transgenic model generated here targeted mouse prostate gland using a firefly luciferase enzyme under the control of a small but highly active and specific supra prostate-specific antigen (sPSA) promoter. We evaluated postnatal prostate development, involution and androgen-induced restoration of prostate growth in adult transgenic mice using bioluminescence imaging. Results of our study showed that: (i) the prostate gland of male offspring did not yield a significant bioluminescence signal until after sexual maturity. Luciferase was detected in the luminal epithelial cells of the ventral and dorsolateral lobes of the prostate gland and caput epididymis, with little or no activity in 18 other organs evaluated. (ii) While a constant high level of bioluminescence was detected in the mouse prostate from 5 to 35 weeks of age, a slight drop in bioluminescence was detected at 36 to 54 weeks. (iii) Upon castration, the luciferase activity signal associated with mouse prostate detected by a cooled charge-coupled device camera was dramatically reduced. This signal could be rapidly restored to pre-castration levels after androgen administration. Androgen-induced luciferase activity subsided to nearly basal levels 5 days following the last injection. These data demonstrate that a bioluminescent mouse model with luciferase activity restricted to the prostate gland under the control of a (sPSA) promoter can be used on a real-time basis in live animals to investigate the development and responsiveness of the prostate gland to exogenously administered androgen. This model can be extended to detect the responsiveness of the prostate gland to therapy and used as a founder strain to visualize tumors in hosts with different genetic backgrounds.
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