c-Yes regulates cell adhesion at the apical ectoplasmic specialization-blood–testis barrier axis via its effects on protein recruitment and distribution

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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During spermatogenesis, extensive restructuring takes place at the cell–cell interface since developing germ cells migrate progressively from the basal to the adluminal compartment of the seminiferous epithelium. Since germ cells per se are not motile cells, their movement relies almost exclusively on the Sertoli cell. Nonetheless, extensive exchanges in signaling take place between these cells in the seminiferous epithelium. c-Yes, a nonreceptor protein tyrosine kinase belonging to the Src family kinases (SFKs) and a crucial signaling protein, was recently shown to be upregulated at the Sertoli cell–cell interface at the blood–testis barrier (BTB) at stages VIII–IX of the seminiferous epithelial cycle of spermatogenesis. It was also highly expressed at the Sertoli cell-spermatid interface known as apical ectoplasmic specialization (apical ES) at stage V to early stage VIII of the epithelial cycle during spermiogenesis. Herein, it was shown that the knockdown of c-Yes by RNAi in vitro and in vivo affected both Sertoli cell adhesion at the BTB and spermatid adhesion at the apical ES, causing a disruption of the Sertoli cell tight junction-permeability barrier function, germ cell loss from the seminiferous epithelium, and also a loss of spermatid polarity. These effects were shown to be mediated by changes in distribution and/or localization of adhesion proteins at the BTB (e.g., occludin, N-cadherin) and at the apical ES (e.g., nectin-3) and possibly the result of changes in the underlying actin filaments at the BTB and the apical ES. These findings implicate that c-Yes is a likely target of male contraceptive research.