Ectoplasmic specialization: A friend or a foe of spermatogenesis?

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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The ectoplasmic specialization (ES) is a testis-specific, actin-based hybrid anchoring and tight junction. It is confined to the interface between Sertoli cells at the blood-testis barrier, known as the basal ES, as well as between Sertoli cells and developing spermatids designated the apical ES. The ES shares features of adherens junctions, tight junctions and focal contacts. By adopting the best features of each junction type, this hybrid nature of ES facilitates the extensive junction-restructuring events in the seminiferous epithelium during spermatogenesis. For instance, the α6β1-integrin- laminin 333 complex, which is usually limited to the cell-matrix interface in other epithelia to facilitate cell movement, is a putative apical ES constituent. Furthermore, JAM-C and CAR, two tight junction integral membrane proteins, are also components of apical ES involving in spermatid orientation. We discuss herein the mechanisms that maintain the cross-talk between ES and blood-testis barrier to facilitate cell movement and orientation in the seminiferous epithelium.