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  • Author: Weiliang Xia x
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Nikki P Y Lee, Dolores D Mruk, Weiliang Xia and C Yan Cheng

Sphingomyelin synthase 2 (SMS2) is an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of phosphatidylcholine and ceramide to sphingomyelin and diacylglycerol, and it is crucial to cellular lipid metabolism. Using the technique of subtraction hybridization, we have isolated a full-length cDNA encoding SMS2 from rat testes, which shared 93 and 87% identity at the nucleotide level with SMS2 in mice and humans respectively. A specific polyclonal antibody was prepared against a 20 amino acid peptide of NH2-FSWPLSWPPGCFKSSCKKYS-COOH near the C-terminus of SMS2. Studies by RT-PCR and immunoblotting have shown that the expression of SMS2 was limited to late round spermatids and elongating spermatids, but it was not detected in late elongate spermatids and Sertoli cells. Furthermore, SMS2 was shown to associate with the developing acrosome beginning in late round spermatid through elongating spermatids (but not late elongate spermatids) and the cell membrane in studies using fluorescent microscopy and immunohistochemistry. These data were further confirmed by studies using immunogold electron microscopy. The expression of SMS2 in the seminiferous epithelium is stage-specific with its highest expression detected in the acrosome region in late round spermatids from stages VIII–IX, and also in the acrosome in elongating spermatids with diminished intensity in stages X–V; however, it was not found in the acrosome in elongate spermatids in stages VI–VIII. Collectively, these results suggest that SMS2 may play a crucial role in the lipid metabolism in acrosome formation and the plasma membrane restructuring from late round spermatids to early elongating spermatids.

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Weiliang Xia, Dolores D Mruk, Will M Lee and C Yan Cheng

During spermatogenesis, extensive restructuring takes place at the Sertoli–Sertoli and Sertoli–germ cell interface, which is regulated via intriguing interactions among cytokines, proteases, protease inhibitors, kinases, phosphatases, and transcription factors. This in turn determines the steady-state levels of integral membrane proteins at the cell junctions. We sought to further expand these observations using the Adjudin model. Adjudin is a potential male contraceptive that targets Sertoli–germ cell adhesion, causing exfoliation of spermatids and spermatocytes, but not spermatogonia, from the seminiferous epithelium. This model thus provides the means to identify crucial regulatory molecules and signaling pathways pertinent to junction restructuring events during spermatogenesis. In this study, genome-wide expression profiling of rat testes after treatment with Adjudin at the time of extensive junction restructuring was performed. Differentially regulated genes, such as cytokines, proteases, protease inhibitors, cell junction-associated proteins, and transcription factors pertinent to junction restructuring were identified. These data were consistent with earlier findings; however, much new information was obtained which has been deposited at the Gene Expression Omnibus data repository website: with Accession number: GSE5131. The primary signaling events pertinent to junction restructuring in the testis induced by Adjudin were also delineated using bioinformatics. These findings were also consistent with recently published reports. The identified molecular signatures or targets pertinent to junction dynamics in the testis as reported herein, many of which have not been investigated, thus offer a framework upon which the regulation of junction restructuring events at the Sertoli–Sertoli and Sertoli–germ cell interface pertinent to spermatogenesis can be further studied.

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Pearl P Y Lie, Weiliang Xia, Claire Q F Wang, Dolores D Mruk, Helen H N Yan, Ching-hang Wong, Will M Lee and C Yan Cheng

In adult rat testes, blood–testis barrier (BTB) restructuring facilitates the migration of preleptotene spermatocytes from the basal to the adluminal compartment that occurs at stage VIII of the epithelial cycle. Structural proteins at the BTB must utilize an efficient mechanism (e.g. endocytosis) to facilitate its transient ‘opening’. Dynamin II, a large GTPase known to be involved in endocytosis, was shown to be a product of Sertoli and germ cells in the testis. It was also localized to the BTB, as well as the apical ectoplasmic specialization (apical ES), during virtually all stages of the epithelial cycle. By co-immunoprecipitation, dynamin II was shown to associate with occludin, N-cadherin, zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1), β-catenin, junctional adhesion molecule-A, and p130Cas, but not nectin-3. An in vivo model in rats previously characterized for studying adherens junction (AJ) dynamics in the testes by adjudin (formerly called AF-2364, 1-(2,4-dichlorobenzyl)-1H-indazole-3-car-hohydrizide) treatment was used in our studies. At the time of germ cell loss from the seminiferous epithelium as a result of adjudin-induced AJ restructuring without disrupting the BTB integrity, a significant decline in the steady-state dynamin II protein level was detected. This change was associated with a concomitant increase in the levels of two protein complexes at the BTB, namely occludin/ZO-1 and N-cadherin/β-catenin. Interestingly, these changes were also accompanied by a significant increase in the structural interaction of dynamin II with β-catenin and ZO-1. β-Catenin and ZO-1 are adaptors that structurally link the cadherin- and occludin-based protein complexes together at the BTB in an ‘engaged’state to reinforce the barrier function in normal testes. However, β-catenin and ZO-1 were ‘disengaged’ from each other but bound to dynamin II during adjudin-induced AJ restructuring in the testis. The data reported herein suggest that dynamin II may assist the ‘disengagement’ of β-catenin from ZO-1 during BTB restructuring. Thus, this may permit the occludin/ZO-1 complexes to maintain the BTB integrity when the cadherin/catenin complexes are dissociated to facilitate germ cell movement.

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Michelle W M Li, Weiliang Xia, Dolores D Mruk, Claire Q F Wang, Helen H N Yan, Michelle K Y Siu, Wing-yee Lui, Will M Lee and C Yan Cheng

The timely restructuring of the blood–testis barrier (BTB) that facilitates the migration of preleptotene and leptotene spermatocytes from the basal to the adluminal compartment in the seminiferous epithelium of adult rat testes, which occurs at late stage VII through early stage VIII of the epithelial cycle, is a crucial cellular event of spermatogenesis. However, the regulation of BTB dynamics at the biochemical level remains elusive. In this study, tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), a secretory product of Sertoli and germ cells in rat testes, was shown to affect junction dynamics in vivo. Following an acute administration of recombinant TNFα directly to adult rat testes in vivo at 0.5 and 2 μg/testis (with a body weight ~300 g), this treatment significantly and transiently disrupted the BTB. It also transiently inhibited the steady-state protein levels of occludin, zonula occludens-1, and N-cadherin, but not junction adhesion molecule-A, α-, and β-catenin in testes at the BTB site as illustrated by immunoblottings, immunohistochemistry, electron microscopy, and fluorescent microscopy. This transient disruption of the BTB integrity induced by TNFα treatment was further demonstrated by a functional test to assess the passage of a fluorescent dye (e.g. fluorescein-5-isothiocyanate) from the systemic circulation to the adluminal compartment. Additionally, both the phosphorylated-Ser/Thr protein kinase activated by MAP kinase kinase (p-p38) and phosphorylated-externally regulated kinase (p-ERK) mitogen -activated protein kinase-signaling pathways were transiently activated. Collectively, these data coupled with the recently published in vitro studies have illustrated that the BTB is likely utilizing a novel mechanism in which localized production of TNFα by Sertoli and germ cells into the microenvironment at the basal compartment facilitates the timely restructuring (‘opening’?) of the BTB during spermatogenesis to facilitate germ cell migration.