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Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a widely used marker for prostate cancer. In the literature, there are reports of nonprostatic expression of PSA that potentially can affect early diagnosis. However, the results are scattered and inconclusive, which motivated us to conduct a more comprehensive study of the tissue distribution of PSA and the closely related protein human glandular kallikrein 2 (hK2). RT-PCR, in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry were used to detect expression of both PSA and hK2 in secretory epithelial cells of trachea, thyroid gland, mammary gland, salivary gland, jejunum, ileum, epididymis, seminal vesicle and urethra, as well as in Leydig cells, pancreatic exocrine glands and epidermis. Immunometric measurements revealed that the concentration of PSA in nonprostatic tissues represents less than 1% of the amount in normal prostate. Pronounced expression of PSA was detected in the Paneth cells in ileum, which prompted us to compare functional parameters of PSA in ileum and prostate. We found that in homogenates from these 2 tissues, PSA manifested equivalent amidolytic activity and capacity to form complexes with protease inhibitors in blood in vitro. Thus, PSA released from sources other than the prostate may add to the plasma pool of this protein, but given the lower levels detected from those sites, it is unlikely that nonprostatic PSA normally can interfere with the diagnosis of prostate cancer. Nevertheless, this risk should not be neglected as it may be of clinical significance under certain circumstances. Supplementary material for this article can be found on the International Journal of Cancer website at

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Cancer

Publication Date





290 - 297


Humans, Ileum, Immunohistochemistry, In Situ Hybridization, Male, Prostate-Specific Antigen, Prostatic Neoplasms, Protease Inhibitors, Reproducibility of Results, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, Tissue Distribution, Tissue Kallikreins