Journal Article

Does cell polarity matter during spermatogenesis?

Cell polarity is crucial to development since apico-basal polarity conferred by the three polarity protein modules (or complexes) is essential during embryogenesis, namely the Par (partition defective)-, the CRB (Crumbs)-, and the Scribble-based polarity protein modules. While these protein complexes and their component proteins have been extensively studied in Drosophila and C. elegans and also other mammalian tissues and/or cells, their presence and physiological significance in the testis remains unexplored until the first paper on the Par-based protein published in 2008. Since then, the Scribble- and the CRB-based protein complexes and their component proteins in the testis have been studied. These proteins are known to confer Sertoli and spermatid polarity in the seminiferous epithelium, and they are also integrated components of the tight junction (TJ) and the basal ectoplasmic specialization (ES) at the Sertoli cell-cell interface near the basement membrane, which in turn constitute the blood-testis barrier (BTB). These proteins are also found at the apical ES at the Sertoli-spermatid interface. Thus, these polarity proteins also play a significant role in regulating Sertoli and spermatid adhesion in the testis through their actions on actin-based cytoskeletal function. Recent studies have shown that these polarity proteins are having antagonistic effects on the BTB integrity in which the Par6- and CRB3-based polarity complexes promotes the integrity of the Sertoli cell TJ-permeability barrier, whereas the Scribble-based complex promotes restructuring/remodeling of the Sertoli TJ-barrier function. Herein, we carefully evaluate these findings and provide a hypothetic model in the context of the functions of these polarity proteins in other epithelia, so that better experiments can be designed in future studies to explore their significance in spermatogenesis.