Journal Article

Differential interactions between transforming growth factor-β3/TβR1, TAB1, and CD2AP disrupt blood-testis barrier and Sertoli-germ cell adhesion

The biochemical basis that regulates the timely and selective opening of the blood-testis barrier (BTB) to migrating preleptotene/leptotene spermatocytes at stage VIII of the epithelial cycle in adult rat testes is virtually unknown. Recent studies have shown that cytokines (e.g., transforming growth factor [TGF]-β3) may play a crucial role in this event. However, much of this information relies on the use of toxicants (e.g., CdCl_2), making it difficult to relay these findings to normal testicular physiology. Here we report that overexpression of TGF-β3 in primary Sertoli cells cultured in vitro indeed perturbed the tight junction (TJ) barrier with a concomitant decline in the production of BTB constituent proteins as follows: occludin, N-cadherin, and ZO-1. Additionally, local administration of TGF-β3 to testes in vivo was shown to reversibly perturb the BTB integrity and Sertoli-germ cell adhesion via the p38 MAPK and ERK signaling pathways. Most importantly, the simultaneous activation of p38 and ERK signaling pathways is dependent on the association of the TGF-β3-TβR1 complex with adaptors TAB1 and CD2AP because if TβR1 was associated preferentially with CD2AP, only Sertoli-germ cell adhesion was perturbed without compromising the BTB. Collectively, these data illustrate that local production of TGF-β3, and perhaps other TGF-βs and cytokines, by Sertoli and germ cells into the microenvironment at the BTB during spermatogenesis transiently perturbs the BTB and Sertoli-germ cell adhesion to facilitate germ cell migration when the activated TβRI interacts with adaptors TAB1 and CD2AP. However, TGF-β3 selectively disrupts Sertoli-germ cell adhesion in the seminiferous epithelium to facilitate germ cell migration without compromising BTB when TβRI interacts only with adaptor CD2AP.