Regulation of spermatogenesis in the microenvironment of the seminiferous epithelium: New insights and advances

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Spermatogenesis is a complex biochemical event, involving the participation of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland via secretion of the hypothalamus hormone GnRH, and two pituitary hormones FSH and LH. Thus, the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis is a crucial regulatory axis for testicular function. Recent studies have shown that in the microenvironment of the seminiferous epithelium, wherein each Sertoli cell supports ∼30-50 germ cells at different stages of development, locally produced autocrine and paracrine factors are also involved in spermatogenesis, in particular at the level of cell junctions. These cell junctions at the Sertoli-Sertoli and Sertoli-germ cell interface are crucial for coordinating different events of spermatogenesis by sending signals back-and-forth between Sertoli and germ cells, in order to precisely regulate spermatogonial cell renewal by mitosis, cell cycle progression, meiosis, spermiogenesis, germ cell movement across the epithelium, spermiation and germ cell apoptosis. In this minireview, we provide an update on these latest findings for an emerging new concept regarding the presence of a local "apical ectoplasmic specialization-blood-testis barrier-hemidesmosome/basement membrane" functional axis that regulates the events of spermiation and blood-testis barrier (BTB) restructuring via paracrine/autocrine factors and polarity proteins produced locally in the seminiferous epithelium. These findings provide a new window of research for investigators in the field to tackle the functional regulation of spermatogenesis.