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Endocr Rev. 2004 Oct;25(5):747-806.

Sertoli-Sertoli and Sertoli-germ cell interactions and their significance in germ cell movement in the seminiferous epithelium during spermatogenesis.

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  • 1Population Council, Center for Biomedical Research, New York, New York 10021, USA.


Spermatogenesis is the process by which a single spermatogonium develops into 256 spermatozoa, one of which will fertilize the ovum. Since the 1950s when the stages of the epithelial cycle were first described, reproductive biologists have been in pursuit of one question: How can a spermatogonium traverse the epithelium, while at the same time differentiating into elongate spermatids that remain attached to the Sertoli cell throughout their development? Although it was generally agreed upon that junction restructuring was involved, at that time the types of junctions present in the testis were not even discerned. Today, it is known that tight, anchoring, and gap junctions are found in the testis. The testis also has two unique anchoring junction types, the ectoplasmic specialization and tubulobulbar complex. However, attention has recently shifted on identifying the regulatory molecules that "open" and "close" junctions, because this information will be useful in elucidating the mechanism of germ cell movement. For instance, cytokines have been shown to induce Sertoli cell tight junction disassembly by shutting down the production of tight junction proteins. Other factors such as proteases, protease inhibitors, GTPases, kinases, and phosphatases also come into play. In this review, we focus on this cellular phenomenon, recapping recent developments in the field.

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