Tumor necrosis factor α reversibly disrupts the blood-testis barrier and impairs Sertoli-germ cell adhesion in the seminiferous epithelium of adult rat testes
The timely restructuring of the blood-testis barrier (BTB) that facilitates the migration of preleptotene and leptotene spermatocytes from the basal to the adluminal compartment in the seminiferous epithelium of adult rat testes, which occurs at late stage VII through early stage VIII of the epithelial cycle, is a crucial cellular event of spermatogenesis. However, the regulation of BTB dynamics at the biochemical level remains elusive. In this study, tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), a secretory product of Sertoh and germ cells in rat testes, was shown to affect junction dynamics in vivo. Following an acute administration of recombinant TNFα directly to adult rat testes in vivo at 0·5 and 2 μg/testis (with a body weight ∼300 g), this treatment significantly and transiently disrupted the BTB. It also transiently inhibited the steady-state protein levels of occludin, zonula occludens-1, and N-cadherin, but not junction adhesion molecule-A, α-, and β-catenin in testes at the BTB site as illustrated by immunoblottings, immunohistochemistry, electron microscopy, and fluorescent microscopy. This transient disruption of the BTB integrity induced by TNFα treatment was further demonstrated by a functional test to assess the passage of a fluorescent dye (e.g. fluorescein-5-isothiocyanate) from the systemic circulation to the adluminal compartment. Additionally, both the phosphorylated-Ser/Thr protein kinase activated by MAP kinase kinase (p-p38) and phosphorylated-externally regulated kinase (p-ERK) mitogen -activated protein kinase-signaling pathways were transiently activated. Collectively, these data coupled with the recently published in vitro studies have illustrated that the BTB is likely utilizing a novel mechanism in which localized production of TNFα by Sertoli and germ cells into the microenvironment at the basal compartment facilitates the timely restructuring ('opening'?) of the BTB during spermatogenesis to facilitate germ cell migration.
Li, Michelle W.M., Weiliang Xia, Dolores D. Mruk, Claire Q.F. Wang, Helen H.N. Yan, Michelle K.Y. Siu, Wing-Yee Lui, Will M. Lee, and C. Yan Cheng. 2006. "Tumor necrosis factor α reversibly disrupts the blood-testis barrier and impairs Sertoli-germ cell adhesion in the seminiferous epithelium of adult rat testes," Journal of Endocrinology 190(2): 313–329.