A seamless trespass: Germ cell migration across the seminiferous epithelium during spermatogenesis

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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During spermatogenesis, preleptotene spermatocytes traverse the blood-testis barrier (BTB) in the seminiferous epithelium, which is reminiscent of viral pathogens breaking through the tight junctions of host epithelial cells. The process also closely resembles the migration of leukocytes across endothelial tight junctions to reach inflammation sites. Cell adhesion molecules of the immunoglobulin superfamily (e.g., JAM/CAR/nectin) participate in germ cell migration by conferring transient adhesion between Sertoli and germ cells through homophilic and heterophilic interactions. The same molecules also comprise the junctional complexes at the BTB. Interestingly, JAM/CAR/nectin molecules mediate virus uptake and leukocyte transmigration in strikingly similar manners. It is likely that the strategy used by viruses and leukocytes to break through junctional barriers is used by germ cells to open up the inter-Sertoli cell junctions. In associating these diverse cellular events, we highlight the "guiding" role of JAM/CAR/nectin molecules for germ cell passage. Knowledge on viral invasion and leukocyte transmigration has also shed insights into germ cell movement during spermatogenesis.