Journal Article

Overexpression of plastin 3 in Sertoli cells disrupts actin microfilament bundle homeostasis and perturbs the tight junction barrier

Throughout the epithelial cycle of spermatogenesis, actin microfilaments arranged as bundles near the Sertoli cell plasma membrane at the Sertoli cell-cell interface that constitute the blood-testis barrier (BTB) undergo extensive re-organization by converting between bundled and unbundled/branched configuration to give plasticity to the F-actin network. This is crucial to accommodate the transport of preleptotene spermatocytes across the BTB. Herein, we sought to examine changes in the actin microfilament organization at the Sertoli cell BTB using an in vitro model since Sertoli cells cultured in vitro is known to establish a functional tight junction (TJ)-permeability barrier that mimics the BTB in vivo. Plastin 3, a known actin microfilament cross-linker and bundling protein, when overexpressed in Sertoli cells using a mammalian expression vector pCI-neo was found to perturb the Sertoli cell TJ-barrier function even though its overexpression increased the overall actin bundling activity in these cells. Furthermore, plastin 3 overexpression also perturb the proper localization and distribution of BTB-associated proteins, such as occludin-ZO1 and N-cadherin-ß-catenin, this thus destabilized the barrier function. Collectively, these data illustrate that a delicate balance of actin microfilaments between being organized in bundles vs. an unbundled/branched configuration is crucial to confer the homeostasis of the BTB and its integrity.