14-3-3 protein regulates cell adhesion in the seminiferous epithelium of rat testes

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Polarity proteins have been implicated in regulating and maintaining tight junction (TJ) and cell polarity in epithelia. Here we report 14-3-3θ, the homolog of Caenorhabditis elegans Par5 in mammalian cells, which is known to confer cell polarity at TJ, is found at the apical ectoplasmic specialization (ES), a testis-specific adherens junction type restricted to the Sertoli cell-elongating spermatid interface, in which TJ is absent. 14-3-3θ was shown to play a critical role in conferring cell adhesion at the apical ES. A loss of 14-3-3θ expression at the apical ES was detected in the seminiferous epithelium before spermiation. Involvement of 14-3-3θ in Sertoli cell adhesion was confirmed by its knockdown by RNA interference in Sertoli cells cultured in vitro with established TJ permeability barrier that mimicked the blood-testis barrier (BTB) in vivo. Mislocalization of N-cadherin and zonula occludens-1, but not α- and β-catenins, was observed after 14-3-3θ knockdown in Sertoli cells, moving from the cell-cell interface to cytosol, indicating a disruption of cell adhesion. Studies by endocytosis assay illustrated that this loss of cell adhesion was mediated by an increase in the kinetics of endocytosis of N-cadherin and junctional adhesion molecule-A at the BTB, which may represent a general mechanism by which polarity proteins regulate cell adhesion. In summary, the testis is using 14-3-3θ to regulate cell adhesion at the apical ES to facilitate spermiation and at the BTB to facilitate the transit of preleptotene spermatocytes at stages VIII-IX of the epithelial cycle. 14-3-3θ may act as a molecular switch that coordinates these two cellular events in the seminiferous epithelium during spermatogenesis.