An in vitro assay to monitor sertoli cell blood-testis barrier (BTB) integrity

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In this chapter, we detail a reliable, effective, and easy to perform assay to monitor the Sertoli cell blood–testis barrier (BTB) integrity. While the BTB in the testis is composed of the tight junction (TJ) barrier and basal ES (ectoplasmic specialization, a testis-specific actin-rich adherens junction (AJ) type), this method is applicable to all other blood–tissue barrier in vitro, including endothelial TJ-barrier of the blood–brain barrier (BBB). Furthermore, this method does not require expensive set up, and can be rapidly performed by any standard biochemistry/cell biology/molecular biology laboratory. The basic idea is built on the concept that a functional blood–tissue barrier, such as the BTB conferred by Sertoli cells in the testis, is capable of blocking the diffusion of a small membrane impermeable biotin (e.g., EZ-Link Sulfo-NHS-LC-biotin, Mr. 556.59) across the barrier. However, when this barrier is compromised, such as following treatment with a toxicant or knockdown of a relevant gene necessary to confer the TJ-barrier function, the biotin will permeate the barrier, reaching the Sertoli cell cytosol. Biotin can be subsequently visualized by using streptavidin conjugated to a fluorescence tag such as Alexa Fluor 488 (green fluorescence) which can be easily visualized by a standard fluorescence microscope.