C-type natriuretic peptide regulates blood-testis barrier dynamics in adult rat testes

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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In adult rat testes, the blood-testis barrier (BTB) in the seminiferous epithelium must "open" (or "disassemble") to accommodate the migration of preleptotene spermatocytes from the basal to the adluminal compartment that occurs at stage VIII of the epithelial cycle. However, the molecule(s) and/or mechanism(s) that regulate this event are unknown. In this report, C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) was shown to be a regulator of BTB dynamics. Although Sertoli and germ cells contributed to the pool of CNP in the seminiferous epithelium, its receptor, natriuretic peptide receptor B, resided almost exclusively in Sertoli cells. CNP also expressed stage-specifically and localized predominantly at the BTB in the seminiferous epithelium at stage VIII of the epithelial cycle. A synthetic CNP-22 peptide, when added to Sertoli cell cultures, was shown to perturb Sertoli cell tight junction in vitro, causing disappearance of BTB-associated proteins (JAM-A, occludin, N-cadherin, and β-catenin) from the cell-cell interface. This inhibitory effect of CNP on the tight junction was confirmed by transient overexpression of CNP in these cells, which was mediated, at least in part, by accelerating the internalization of BTB integral membrane proteins. To validate these in vitro findings, CNP-22 was administered to testes at a dose of 0.35 or 3.5 μg per testis, which was shown to perturb the BTB integrity in vivo when the barrier function was assessed by monitoring the diffusion of a small molecular probe across the BTB. In summary, CNP secreted by Sertoli and germ cells into the BTB microenvironment regulates BTB dynamics during spermatogenesis.