PURPOSE: Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is one of the most potent regulators of angiogenesis and has been shown to act upon two tyrosine kinase family receptors: c-fms-like tyrosine kinase (Flt-1) and fetal liver kinase. Preliminary reports have emphasized that expression of VEGF receptors is endothelial cell-specific. In this study we verified the localization and distribution of Flt-1 protein and mRNA expression in prostatic adenocarcinoma (CaP) as well as prostate intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN) and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). MATERIALS AND METHODS: 30 selected surgical specimens exhibiting areas with CaP, PIN and BPH histology were evaluated for Flt-1 protein expression by immunohistochemistry. Results were compared with tumor differentiation (Gleason-Score), serum-PSA and clinical followup. Flt-1 synthesis by prostatic carcinoma cell lines, freshly isolated BPH epithelial cells (BPH-EC) and stromal cells was investigated using RT-PCR and intron spanning primer. RESULTS: VEGF receptor Flt-1 specific anti-sera revealed significant staining of prostatic endothelial cells, but the reactivity was not restricted to endothelial cells. BPH-epithelial cells of all specimens reacted significantly with anti-Flt-1. In contrast, tumor cells failed to react with anti-Flt-1 in 56% of the specimens. BPH-EC revealed a uniform anti-Flt-1 reactivity, which was less pronounced and weaker in PIN. Loss of anti-Flt-1 reactivity of prostatic tumor cells did not correlate with preoperative PSA serum levels but increased with tumor dedifferentiation. Interestingly, tumor cells of all CaP specimens with a Gleason score of >8 exhibit no anti-Flt-1 immunoreactivity. Accordingly while PC3, DU145 and LNCaP cells were negative when tested using RT-PCR all BPH tissue derived BPH-EC revealed Flt-1 coding mRNA expression.CONCLUSIONS: Widespread distribution of VEGF receptor Flt-1 in BPH, PIN and prostate cancer specimens suggests that VEGF function in prostate is not restricted to endothelial cells and angiogenesis. However, since the receptor is lost in CaP cells and with tumor dedifferentiation, these yet unknown effects of VEGF on epithelial cells are obviously suppressed with malignant transformation.