Regulation of the blood-testis barrier by coxsackievirus and adenovirus receptor

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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The blood-testis barrier (BTB) divides the seminiferous epithelium into the basal and the adluminal compartment. It restricts paracellular diffusion of molecules between Sertoli cells, confers cell polarity, and creates a unique microenvironment in the adluminal compartment for spermatid development. However, it undergoes restructuring during the epithelial cycle so that preleptotene spermatocytes differentiated from type B spermatogonia residing in the basal compartment can traverse the BTB at stage VIII of the cycle, while the immunological barrier is maintained. Herein, coxsackievirus and adenovirus receptor (CAR), a tight junction (TJ) integral membrane protein in the testis and multiple epithelia and endothelia, was found to act as a regulatory protein at the BTB, besides serving as a structural adhesion protein. RNAi-mediated knockdown of CAR in a Sertoli cell epithelium with an established TJ-permeability barrier that mimicked the BTB in vivo resulted in a disruption of the TJ barrier and an increase in endocytosis of the TJ-protein occludin. Furthermore, such an enhancement in occludin endocytosis was accompanied by a downregulation of Thr-phosphorylation in occludin and an increase in the association of endocytosed occludin with early endosome antigen-1. These findings were confirmed by overexpressing CAR in Sertoli cells, which was found to “tighten” the Sertoli cell TJ barrier, promoting BTB function. These findings support the emerging concept that CAR is not only a structural protein, it is involved in conferring the phosphorylation status of other adhesion proteins at the BTB (e.g., occludin) possibly mediated via its structural interactions with nonreceptor protein kinases, thereby modulating endocytic vesicle-mediated protein trafficking.