EB1 regulates tubulin and actin cytoskeletal networks at the Sertoli cell blood-testis barrier in male rats: An in vitro study

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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During spermatogenesis, developing germ cells are transported across the seminiferous epithelium. Studies propose that because microtubules (MTs) serve as the tracks for transporting cell organelles, they may also serve a similar function in the transport of developing germ cells. Polarized MTs may provide the tracks along which polarized actin microfilaments, which act as vehicles to transport cargo, such as preleptotene spermatocytes through the blood-testis barrier (BTB) and spermatids across the epithelium. Yet the molecular mechanism(s) underlying these events remain unknown. Using an established in vitro Sertoli cell system to study BTB function, we demonstrated herein that a MT regulatory protein end-binding protein 1 (EB1) regulates the MT- and also the actin-based cytoskeleton of the Sertoli cell BTB in the rat. EB1 serves as a coordinator between the two cytoskeletons by regulating MT polymerization and actin filament bundling to modulate germ cell transport at the Sertoli cell BTB. A knockdown of EB1 by RNA interference was found to perturb the tight junction (TJ)-permeability barrier, as evidenced by mislocalization of junctional proteins critical for barrier function to facilitate spermatocyte transport, which was likely achieved by two coordinated events. First, EB1 knockdown resulted in changes in MT polymerization, thereby perturbing MT organization in Sertoli cells in which polarized MT no longer stretched properly across the cell cytosol to serve as the tracks. Second, EB1 knockdown perturbed actin organization via its effects on the branched actin polymerization-inducing protein called Arp3 (actin-related protein 3), perturbing microfilament bundling capability based on a biochemical assay, thereby causing microfilament truncation and misorganization, disrupting the function of the vehicle. This reduced actin microfilament bundling capability thus perturbed TJ-protein distribution and localization at the BTB, destabilizing the TJ barrier, leading to its remodeling to facilitate spermatocyte transport. In summary, EB1 provides a functional link between tubulin- and actin-based cytoskeletons to confer spermatocyte transport at the BTB.