The β1-integrin-p-FAK-p130Cas-DOCK180-RhoA-vinculin is a novel regulatory protein complex at the apical ectoplasmic specialization in adult rat testes

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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During spermatogenesis, step 1 spermatids (round spermatids) derive from spermatocytes following meiosis I and II at stage XIV of the epithelial cycle begin a series of morphological transformation and differentiation via 19 steps in rats to form spermatozoa. This process is known as spermiogenesis, which is marked by condensation of the genetic material in the spermatid head, formation of the acrosome and elongation of the tail. Since developing spermatids are lacking the robust protein synthesis and transcriptional activity, the cellular, molecular and morphological changes associated with spermiogenesis rely on the Sertoli cell in the seminiferous epithelium via desmosome and gap junction between Sertoli cells and step 1–7 spermatids. Interestingly, a unique anchoring junction type arises at the interface of step 8 spermatid and Sertoli cell known as apical ectoplasmic specialization (apical ES). Once it appears, apical ES is the only anchoring device restricted to the interface of step 8–19 spermatids and Sertoli cells to confer spermatid polarity, adhesion, signal communication and structural support, and to provide nutritional support during spermiogenesis, replacing desmosome and gap junction. While the adhesion protein complexes that constitute the apical ES are known, the signaling protein complexes that regulate apical ES dynamics, however, remain largely unknown. Herein we report the presence of a FAK (focal adhesion kinase)-p130Cas (p130 Crk-associated substrate)-DOCK180 (Dedicator of cytokinesis 180)-RhoA (Ras homolog gene family, member A)-vinculin signaling protein complex at the apical ES, which is also an integrated component of the β1-integrin-based adhesion protein complex based on co-immunoprecipitation experiment. It was also shown that besides p-FAK-Tyr^397 and p-FAK-Tyr^576, β1-integrin, p130Cas, RhoA and vinculin displayed stage-specific expression in the seminiferous epithelium during the epithelial cycle with predominant localization at the apical ES as demonstrated by immunohistochemistry. Based on these findings, functional studies can now be performed to assess the role of this β1-integrin-p-FAK-p130Cas-DOCK180-RhoA-vinculin protein complex in apical ES dynamics during spermiogenesis.






The Biology of Blood–Testis Barrier Dynamics