Adaptors, junction dynamics, and spermatogenesis

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



Adaptors are component proteins of junctional complexes in all epithelia, including the seminiferous epithelium of the mammalian testis. They recruit other regulatory and structural proteins to the site of both anchoring junctions (such as cell-cell actin-based adherens junctions [AJs], e.g., ectoplasmic specialization [ES] and tubulobulbar complex, which are both testis-specific cell-cell actin-based AJ types, and cell-cell intermediate filament-based desmosome-like junctions) and tight junctions (TJ). Furthermore, adaptors per se can be substrates and/or activators of kinases or phosphatases. As such, the integrity of cell junctions and the regulation of junction dynamics during spermatogenesis rely on adaptors for their ability to recruit and link different junctional components to the same site and to tether transmembrane proteins at both anchoring and TJ sites to the underlying cytoskeletons, such as the actin filaments, intermediate filaments, and microtubules. These protein-protein interactions are possible because adaptors are composed of conserved protein binding domains, which allow them to link to more than one structural or signaling protein, recruiting multiprotein complexes to the same site. Herein, we provide a timely review of adaptors recently found at the sites of AJ (e.g., ES) and TJ. In addition, several in vivo models that can be used to delineate the function of adaptors in the testis are described, and the role of adaptors in regulating junction dynamics pertinent to spermatogenesis is discussed.