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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Nov 15;102(46):16696-700. Epub 2005 Nov 7.

Androgens regulate the permeability of the blood-testis barrier.

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  • 1Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Within the mammalian testis, specialized tight junctions between somatic Sertoli cells create basal and apical polarity within the cells, restrict movement of molecules between cells, and separate the seminiferous epithelium into basal and adluminal compartments. These tight junctions form the basis of the blood-testis barrier, a structure whose function and dynamic regulation is poorly understood. In this study, we used microarray gene expression profiling to identify genes with altered transcript levels in a mouse model for conditional androgen insensitivity. We show that testosterone, acting through its receptor expressed in Sertoli cells, regulates the expression of claudin 3, which encodes a transient component of newly formed tight junctions. Sertoli cell-specific ablation of androgen receptor results in increased permeability of the blood-testis barrier to biotin, suggesting claudin 3 regulates the movement of small molecules across the Sertoli cell tight junctions. These results suggest that androgen action in Sertoli cells regulates germ cell differentiation, in part by controlling the microenvironment of the seminiferous epithelium. Our studies also indicate that hormonal strategies for male contraception may interfere with the blood-testis barrier.

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