rpS6 regulates blood–testis barrier dynamics by affecting F-actin organization and protein recruitment

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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During spermatogenesis, preleptotene spermatocytes residing near the basement membrane of the seminiferous tubule must traverse the blood–testis barrier (BTB) at stage VIII–IX of the epithelial cycle to continue their development in the adluminal compartment. Unlike other blood–tissue barriers (e.g. the blood–brain barrier) that are created by the endothelial tight junction (TJ) barrier of capillaries, the BTB is created by specialized junctions between Sertoli cells in which TJ coexists with basal ectoplasmic specialization (basal ES, a testis-specific adherens junction). The basal ES is typified by the presence of tightly packed actin filament bundles sandwiched between cisternae of endoplasmic reticulum and the apposing plasma membranes of Sertoli cells. These actin filament bundles also confer unusual adhesive strength to the BTB. Yet the mechanisms by which these filamentous actin (F-actin) networks are regulated from the bundled to the debundled state to facilitate the transit of spermatocytes remain elusive. Herein, we provide evidence that ribosomal protein S6 (rpS6), the downstream signaling molecule of the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) pathway, is a major regulator of F-actin organization and adhesion protein recruitment at the BTB. rpS6 is restrictively and spatiotemporally activated at the BTB during the epithelial cycle. An activation of rpS6 led to a disruption of the Sertoli cell TJ barrier and BTB integrity. Its silencing in vitro or in vivo by using small interfering RNA duplexes or short hairpin RNA was found to promote the Sertoli cell TJ permeability barrier by the recruitment of adhesion proteins (e.g. claudin-11 and occludin) to the BTB. Thus, rpS6 in the mTORC1 pathway regulates BTB restructuring via its effects on the F-actin organization and protein recruitment at the BTB.