The prostate of the dog was relocated permanently in the perineum where its size could be measured and correlated with the output of prostatic secretion during many months. The secretion of a submaxillary gland obtained through a fistula was utilized as an internal biologic standard of the effects of pilocarpine, the secretory stimulus employed, because the amount and route of administration of the alkaloid are critical factors in inducing secretion.
Prostatic secretion was found to be profoundly affected by androgenic and estrogenic compounds, in contrast to salivation. The curves of the secretory response of the prostate and submaxillary glands to pilocarpine proved to be similar and a mathematical formula has been constructed to represent them.
When testosterone propionate was administered in increasing quantities for periods of weeks at each level, the volume of the prostate increased in a series of flattened curves. This volume, under the conditions mentioned, was found to stand in a simple arithmetic relationship to the amount of testosterone propionate administered.
Moderate quantities of testosterone propionate masked the effects of small amounts of stilbestrol on the prostate. The reverse was also true and the critical amounts of these compounds were defined.
The amounts of stilbestrol were determined which lowered the quantity of prostatic secretion resulting from the simultaneous administration of moderate amounts of testosterone propionate in castrate dogs, the result being a level and flat secretory curve which was maintained for many weeks. We designate this effect the plateau phenomenon. When this amount of estrogen was continued, and the dosage of testosterone propionate greatly augmented, the prostatic secretion did not increase in volume. Very slight increases above the critical amount of stilbestrol, however, caused the secretory curve to fall to new and still lower levels though the secretion was never completely suppressed. The acid phosphatase content of the prostatic secretion in the regions of secretory plateaus was similar to that of castrate dogs injected with androgen alone. The plateau phenomenon is due to simultaneous physiologic action of androgenic and estrogenic compounds on the prostatic cells.
The depression of prostatic secretion resulting in the plateau phenomenon is due to both functional and structural changes in the prostatic epithelium. They are best explained on the assumption that differences in steroid threshold exist in groups of cells within the prostate, those of the anterior rim of the gland being least susceptible to estrogenic activity.