Rai14 (Retinoic Acid Induced Protein 14) is involved in regulating F-Actin dynamics at the ectoplasmic specialization in the rat testis

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Rai14 (retinoic acid induced protein 14) is an actin binding protein first identified in the liver, highly expressed in the placenta, the testis, and the eye. In the course of studying actin binding proteins that regulate the organization of actin filament bundles in the ectoplasmic specialization (ES), a testis-specific actin-rich adherens junction (AJ) type, Rai14 was shown to be one of the regulatory proteins at the ES. In the rat testis, Rai14 was found to be expressed by Sertoli and germ cells, structurally associated with actin and an actin cross-linking protein palladin. Its expression was the highest at the ES in the seminiferous epithelium of adult rat testes, most notably at the apical ES at the Sertoli–spermatid interface, and expressed stage-specifically during the epithelial cycle in stage VII–VIII tubules. However, Rai14 was also found at the basal ES near the basement membrane, associated with the blood–testis barrier (BTB) in stage VIII–IX tubules. A knockdown of Rai14 in Sertoli cells cultured in vitro by RNAi was found to perturb the Sertoli cell tight junction-permeability function in vitro, mediated by a disruption of F-actin, which in turn led to protein mis-localization at the Sertoli cell BTB. When Rai14 in the testis in vivo was knockdown by RNAi, defects in spermatid polarity and adhesion, as well as spermatid transport were noted mediated via changes in F-actin organization and mis-localization of proteins at the apical ES. In short, Rai14 is involved in the re-organization of actin filaments in Sertoli cells during the epithelial cycle, participating in conferring spermatid polarity and cell adhesion in the testis.