Spermatogenesis is dependent on the ability of Sertoh cells to form mature junctions that maintain a unique environment within the seminiferous epithelium. Adjacent Sertoli cells form a junctional complex that includes classical adherens junctions and testis-specific ectoplasmic specialisations (ES). The regulation of inter-Sertoli cell junctions by the two main endocrine regulators of spermatogenesis, FSH and testosterone, is unclear. This study aimed to investigate the effects of FSH and testosterone on inter-Sertoli cell adherens junctions (as determined by immunolocalisation of cadherin, catenin and actin) and ES junctions (as determined by immunolocalisation of espin, actin and vinculin) in cultured immature Sertoli cells and GnRH-immunised adult rat testes given FSH or testosterone replacement in vivo. When hormones were absent in vitro, adherens junctions formed as discrete puncta between interdigitating, finger-like projections of Sertoli cells, but ES junctions were not present. The adherens junction puncta included actin filaments that were oriented perpendicularly to the Sertoli cell plasma membrane, but were not associated with the intermediate filament protein vimentin. When FSH was added in vitro, ES junctions formed, and adjacent adherens junction puncta fused into extensive adherens junction belts. After hormone suppression in vivo, ES junctions were absent, while FSH replacement restored ES junctions, as confirmed by electron microscopy and confocal analysis of ES-associated proteins. Testosterone alone did not affect adherens junctions or ES in vitro or in vivo. We conclude that FSH can regulate the formation of ES junctions and stimulate the organisation and orientation of extensive adherens junctions in Sertoli cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism