MARK2 and MARK4 regulate Sertoli cell BTB dynamics through microtubule and actin cytoskeletons

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



MARKs (microtubule affinity-regulating kinases) are non-receptor Ser/Thr protein kinases known to regulate cell polarity and microtubule dynamics in C. elegans, Drosophila, invertebrates, vertebrates and mammals. An earlier study has shown that MARK4 is present at the ectoplasmic specialization (EC) and blood-testis barrier (BTB) in the seminiferous epithelium of adult rat testes. Here, we report the function of MARK4 and another isoform MARK2 in Sertoli cells at the BTB. Knockdown of MARK2, MARK4 or MARK2 and MARK4 by RNAi using the corresponding siRNA duplexes without apparent off-target effects was shown to impair TJ-permeability barrier at the Sertoli cell BTB. It also disrupted microtubule (MT)- and actin-based cytoskeletal organization within Sertoli cells. Although MARK2 and MARK4 were shown to share sequence homology, they likely regulated the Sertoli cell BTB and MT cytoskeleton differently. Disruption of the TJ-permeability barrier following knockdown of MARK4 was considerably more severe than loss of MARK2, though both perturbed the barrier. Similarly, loss of MARK2 affected MT organization in a different manner than the loss of MARK4. Knockdown of MARK2 caused MT bundles to be arranged around the cell periphery, whereas knockdown of MARK4 caused MTs to retract from the cell edge. These differences in effects on the TJ-permeability barrier are likely due to the unique roles of MARK2 and MARK4 in regulating the MT cytoskeleton of the Sertoli cell.