Actin binding proteins and spermiogenesis: Some unexpected findings

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Drebrin E, an actin-binding protein lacking intrinsic activity in the regulation of actin dynamics (e.g., polymerization, capping, nucleation, branching, cross-linking, bundling, and severing), is known to recruit actin regulatory proteins to a specific cellular site. Herein, we critically evaluate recent findings in the field which illustrate that drebrin E works together with two other actin-binding proteins, namely Arp3 (actin-related protein 3, a component of the Arp2/3 complex that simultaneously controls actin nucleation for polymerization and branching of actin filaments) and Eps8 (epidermal growth factor receptor pathway substrate 8 that controls capping of the barbed ends of actin filaments, as well as actin filament bundling) to regulate the homeostasis of F-actin filament bundles at the ectoplasmic specialization (ES), a testis-specific adherens junction (AJ) in the seminiferous epithelium. This is mediated by the strict temporal and spatial expression of these three actin-binding proteins at the apical and basal ES at the Sertoli cell-spermatid (step 8-19) and Sertoli-Sertoli cell interface, respectively, during the seminiferous epithelial cycle of spermatogenesis. In this Commentary, we put forth a possible model by which drebrin E may be acting as a platform upon which proteins (e.g., Arp3) that are needed to alter the conformation of actin filament bundles at the ES can be recruited to the site, thus facilitating changes in cell shape and cell position in the epithelium during spermiogenesis and spermiation. In short, drebrin E may be acting as a “logistic” distribution center to manage different regulatory proteins at the apical ES, thereby regulating the dynamics of actin filament bundles and modulating the plasticity of the apical ES. This would allow adhesion to be altered continuously throughout the epithelial cycle to accommodate spermatid movement in the seminiferous epithelium during spermiogenesis and spermiation. We also describe a hypothetical model, upon which functional studies can be designed in the future.