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Linlin Su, Dolores D Mruk and C Yan Cheng

The blood–testis barrier (BTB), which is created by adjacent Sertoli cells near the basement membrane, serves as a ‘gatekeeper’ to prohibit harmful substances from reaching developing germ cells, most notably postmeiotic spermatids. The BTB also divides the seminiferous epithelium into the basal and adluminal (apical) compartment so that postmeiotic spermatid development, namely spermiogenesis, can take place in a specialized microenvironment in the apical compartment behind the BTB. The BTB also contributes, at least in part, to the immune privilege status of the testis, so that anti-sperm antibodies are not developed against antigens that are expressed transiently during spermatogenesis. Recent studies have shown that numerous drug transporters are expressed by Sertoli cells. However, many of these same drug transporters are also expressed by spermatogonia, spermatocytes, round spermatids, elongating spermatids, and elongated spermatids, suggesting that the developing germ cells are also able to selectively pump drugs ‘in’ and/or ‘out’ via influx or efflux pumps. We review herein the latest developments regarding the role of drug transporters in spermatogenesis. We also propose a model utilized by the testis to protect germ cell development from ‘harmful’ environmental toxicants and xenobiotics and/or from ‘therapeutic’ substances (e.g. anticancer drugs). We also discuss how drug transporters that are supposed to protect spermatogenesis can work against the testis in some instances. For example, when drugs (e.g. male contraceptives) that can perturb germ cell adhesion and/or maturation are actively pumped out of the testis or are prevented from entering the apical compartment, such as by efflux pumps.

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Linlin Su, Dolores D Mruk, Will M Lee and C Yan Cheng

The blood–testis barrier (BTB) creates an immunological barrier that segregates the seminiferous epithelium into the basal and apical compartment. Thus, meiosis I/II and post-meiotic germ cell development take place in a specialized microenvironment in the apical compartment behind the BTB and these events are being shielded from the host immune system. If unwanted drugs and/or chemicals enter the apical compartment from the microvessels in the interstitium via the basal compartment, efflux pumps (e.g. P-glycoprotein) located in Sertoli cells and/or spermatids can actively transport these molecules out of the apical compartment. However, the mechanism(s) by which influx pumps regulate the entry of drugs/chemicals into the apical compartment is not known. In this study, a solute carrier (SLC) transporter organic anion transporting polypeptide 3 (Oatp3, Slco1a5) was shown to be an integrated component of the N-cadherin-based adhesion complex at the BTB. However, a knockdown of Oatp3 alone or in combination with three other major Sertoli cell drug influx pumps, namely Slc22a5, Slco6b1, and Slco6c1, by RNAi using corresponding specific siRNA duplexes failed to perturb the Sertoli cell tight junction (TJ) permeability barrier function. Yet, the transport of [3H]adjudin, a potential male contraceptive that is considered a toxicant to spermatogenesis, across the BTB was impeded following the knockdown of either Oatp3 or all the four SLC transporters. In short, even though drug transporters (e.g. influx pumps) are integrated components of the adhesion protein complexes at the BTB, they are not involved in regulating the Sertoli cell TJ permeability barrier function, instead they are only involved in the transport of drugs, such as adjudin, across the immunological barrier at the BTB.

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Zhiguo Liu, Chun Yan Lim, Michelle Yu-Fah Su, Stephanie Li Ying Soh, Guanghou Shui, Markus R Wenk, Kevin L Grove, George K Radda, Weiping Han and Xiaoqiu Xiao

Neonatal overnutrition results in accelerated development of high-fat diet (HFD)-induced metabolic defects in adulthood. To understand whether the increased susceptibility was associated with aggravated inflammation and dysregulated lipid metabolism, we studied metabolic changes and insulin signaling in a chronic postnatal overnutrition (CPO) mouse model. Male Swiss Webster pups were raised with either three pups per litter to induce CPO or ten pups per litter as control (CTR) and weaned to either low-fat diet (LFD) or HFD. All animals were killed on the postnatal day 150 (P150) except for a subset of mice killed on P15 for the measurement of stomach weight and milk composition. CPO mice exhibited accelerated body weight gain and increased body fat mass prior to weaning and the difference persisted into adulthood under conditions of both LFD and HFD. As adults, insulin signaling was more severely impaired in epididymal white adipose tissue (WAT) from HFD-fed CPO (CPO–HFD) mice. In addition, HFD-induced upregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines was exaggerated in CPO–HFD mice. Consistent with greater inflammation, CPO–HFD mice showed more severe macrophage infiltration than HFD-fed CTR (CTR–HFD) mice. Furthermore, when compared with CTR–HFD mice, CPO–HFD mice exhibited reduced levels of several lipogenic enzymes in WAT and excess intramyocellular lipid accumulation. These data indicate that neonatal overnutrition accelerates the development of insulin resistance and exacerbates HFD-induced metabolic defects, possibly by worsening HFD-induced inflammatory response and impaired lipid metabolism.

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Wenqi Chen, Siyu Lu, Chengshun Yang, Na Li, Xuemei Chen, Junlin He, Xueqing Liu, Yubin Ding, Chao Tong, Chuan Peng, Chen Zhang, Yan Su, Yingxiong Wang and Rufei Gao

Previous research on the role of insulin has focused on metabolism. This study investigated the effect of insulin on angiogenesis in endometrial decidualization. High insulin-treated mouse model was constructed by subcutaneous injection of insulin. Venous blood glucose, serum insulin, P4, E2, FSH and LH levels in the pregnant mice were detected by ELISA. Decidual markers, angiogenesis factors and decidual vascular network were detected during decidualization in the pregnant mouse model and an artificially induced decidualization mouse model. Tube formation ability and angiogenesis factors expression were also detected in high insulin-treated HUVECS cells. To confirm whether autophagy participates in hyperinsulinemia-impaired decidual angiogenesis, autophagy was detected in vivo and in vitro. During decidualization, in the condition of high insulin, serum insulin and blood glucose were significantly higher, while ovarian steroid hormones were also disordered (P < 0.05), decidual markers BMP2 and PRL were significantly lower (P < 0.05). Uterine CD34 staining showed that the size of the vascular sinus was significantly smaller than that in control. Endometrial VEGFA was significantly decreased after treatment with high insulin in vivo and in vitro (P < 0.05), whereas ANG-1 and TIE2 expression was significantly increased (P < 0.05). In addition, aberrant expression of autophagy markers revealed that autophagy participates in endometrial angiogenesis during decidualization (P < 0.05). After treatment with the autophagy inhibitor 3-MA in HUVEC, the originally damaged cell tube formation ability and VEGFA expression were repaired. This study suggests that endometrial angiogenesis during decidualization was impaired by hyperinsulinemia in early pregnant mice.