Cytokines and junction restructuring events during spermatogenesis in the testis: An emerging concept of regulation

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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During spermatogenesis in mammalian testes, junction restructuring takes place at the Sertoli-Sertoli and Sertoli-germ cell interface, which is coupled with germ cell development, such as cell cycle progression, and translocation of the germ cell within the seminiferous epithelium. In the rat testis, restructuring of the blood-testis barrier (BTB) formed between Sertoli cells near the basement membrane and disruption of the apical ectoplasmic specialization (apical ES) between Sertoli cells and fully developed spermatids (spermatozoa) at the luminal edge of the seminiferous epithelium occur concurrently at stage VIII of the seminiferous epithelial cycle of spermatogenesis. These two processes are essential for the translocation of primary spermatocytes from the basal to the apical compartment to prepare for meiosis, and the release of spermatozoa into the lumen of the seminiferous epithelium at spermiation, respectively. Cytokines, such as TNFα and TGFβ3, are present at high levels in the microenvironment of the epithelium at this stage of the epithelial cycle. Since these cytokines were shown to disrupt the BTB integrity and germ cell adhesion, it was proposed that some cytokines released from germ cells, particularly primary spermatocytes, and Sertoli cells, would induce restructuring of the BTB and apical ES at stage VIII of the seminiferous epithelial cycle. In this review, the intricate role of cytokines and testosterone to regulate the transit of primary spermatocytes at the BTB and spermiation will be discussed. Possible regulators that mediate cytokine-induced junction restructuring, including gap junction and extracellular matrix, and the role of testosterone on junction dynamics in the testis will also be discussed.