Polarity proteins and actin regulatory proteins are unlikely partners that regulate cell adhesion in the seminiferous epithelium during spermatogenesis
C. Yan Cheng1, Elissa W.P. Wong1, Pearl P.Y. Lie1, Dolores D. Mruk1, Xiang Xiao1, Michelle W.M. Li1, Wing-Yee Lui2 and Will M. Lee2
1The Mary M. Wohlford Laboratory for Male Contraceptive Research, Population Council, New York, USA and 2School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.
Offprint requests to: C. Yan Cheng, Senior Scientist, The Mary M. Wohlford Laboratory for Male Contraceptive Research, Center for Biomedical Research, Population Council, 1230 York Avenue, New York 10065, New York, USA. e-mail: Y-Cheng@popcbr.rockefeller.edu
Summary. In mammalian testis, spermatogenesis takes place in the seminiferous epithelium of the seminiferous tubule, which is composed of a series of cellular events. These include: (i) spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) renewal via mitosis and differentiation of SSC to spermatogenia, (ii) meiosis, (iii) spermiogenesis, and (iv) spermiation. Throughout these events, developing germ cells remain adhered to the Sertoli cell in the seminiferous epithelium amidst extensive cellular, biochemical, molecular and morphological changes to obtain structural support and nourishment. These events are coordinated via signal transduction at the cell-cell interface through cell junctions, illustrating the significance of cell junctions and adhesion in spermatogenesis. Additionally, developing germ cells migrate progressively across the seminiferous epithelium from the stem cell niche, which is located in the basal compartment near the basement membrane of the tunica propria adjacent to the interstitium. Recent studies have shown that some apparently unrelated proteins, such as polarity proteins and actin regulatory proteins, are in fact working in concert and synergistically to coordinate the continuous cyclic changes of adhesion at the Sertoli-Sertoli and Sertoli-germ cell interface in the seminiferous epithelium during the epithelial cycle of spermatogenesis, such that developing germ cells remain attached to the Sertoli cell in the epithelium while they alter in cell shape and migrate across the epithelium. In this review, we highlight the physiological significance of endocytic vesicle-mediated protein trafficking events under the influence of polarity and actin regulatory proteins in conferring cyclic events of cell adhesion and de-adhesion. Furthermore, these recent findings have unraveled some unexpected molecules to be targeted for male contraceptive development, which are also targets of toxicant-induced male reproductive dysfunction. Histol Histopathol 26, 1465-1474 (2011)
Key words: Testis, Polarity proteins, PAR6, Cdc42, GTPase, Actin regulators, Eps8, Arp3, Anchoring junction, Ectoplasmic specialization, Seminiferous epithelial cycle