Tight junctions in the testis: new perspectives

Dolores D. Mruk, C. Y. Cheng

Abstract

In the testis, tight junctions (TJs) are found between adjacent Sertoli cells at the level of the blood–testis barrier (BTB) where they coexist with basal ectoplasmic specializations and desmosome-gap junctions. The BTB physically divides the seminiferous epithelium into two distinct compartments: a basal compartment where spermatogonia and early spermatocytes are found, and an adluminal compartment where more developed germ cells are sequestered from the systemic circulation. In order for germ cells (i.e. preleptotene spermatocytes) to enter the adluminal compartment, they must cross the BTB, a cellular event requiring the participation of several molecules and signalling pathways. Still, it is not completely understood how preleptotene spermatocytes traverse the BTB at stage VIII of the seminiferous epithelial cycle. In this review, we discuss largely how TJ proteins are exploited by viruses and cancer cells to cross endothelial and epithelial cells. We also discuss how this information may apply to future studies investigating the movement of preleptotene spermatocytes across the BTB.

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