RAI14 (retinoic acid induced protein 14) is an F-actin regulator—Lesson from the 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. In the testis, RAI14 is expressed by both Sertoli and germ cells in the seminiferous epithelium. Besides binding to actin in the testis, RAI14 is also a binding protein for palladin, an actin cross-linking and bundling protein. A recent report has shown that RAI14 displays stage-specific and spatiotemporal expression at the ES [ectoplasmic specialization, a testis-specific filamentous (F)-actin-rich adherens junction] in the seminiferous epithelium of adult rat testes during the epithelial cycle of spermatogenesis, illustrating its likely involvement in F-actin organization at the ES. Functional studies in which RAI14 was knocked down by RNAi in Sertoli cells in vitro and also in testicular cells in vivo have illustrated its role in conferring the integrity of actin filament bundles at the ES, perturbing the Sertoli cell tight junction (TJ)-pemeability barrier function in vitro, and also spermatid polarity and adhesion in vivo, thereby regulating spermatid transport at spermiation. Herein, we critically evaluate these earlier findings and also provide a likely hypothetic model based on the functional role of RAI14 at the ES, and how RAI14 is working with palladin and other actin regulatory proteins in the testis to regulate the transport of (1) spermatids and (2) preleptotene spermatocytes across the seminiferous epithelium and the blood-testis barrier (BTB), respectively, during spermatogenesis. This model should serve as a framework upon which functional experiments can be designed to better understand the biology of RAI14 and other actin-binding and regulatory proteins in the testis.