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Mol Reprod Dev. 2006 Jul;73(7):906-17.

Role of integrins, tetraspanins, and ADAM proteins during the development of apoptotic bodies by spermatogenic cells.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology and Anatomical Sciences, The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education/The City University of New York Medical School, New York, NY 10031, USA.


We have previously reported that Sertoli cell geometric changes induced by a Fas (CD95) agonist or by restricting Sertoli cell spreading can trigger spermatogenic cell detachment from Sertoli cell surfaces and initiate a programmed cell death sequence. Here, we have focused on ADAM proteins, tetraspanins CD9 and CD81, and the integrin beta1 subunit, which is co-expressed in testis with integrin alpha3 and integrin alpha6 subunits, to understand how these molecules may stabilize spermatogenic cell attachment to Sertoli cell surfaces. Like ADAM proteins, integrin beta1, alpha3, and alpha6 subunits, and CD9 and CD81 transcripts are expressed in the fetal testis and throughout testicular maturation, as well as, in Sertoli-spermatogenic cell co-cultures. Prespermatogonia (gonocytes) display CD9 and CD81 immunoreactive sites. Integrin alpha6 subunit transcripts have unusual developmental characteristics: fetal testis expresses the integrin alpha6B isoform exclusively. In contrast, the integrin alpha6B isoform co-exists with the integrin alpha6A isoform in prepubertal testes and Sertoli-spermatogenic cell co-cultures. A blocking anti body targeting the extracellular domain (N-terminal) of the integrin beta1 subunit causes rapid contraction of Sertoli cells leading to the gradual detachment of associated spermatogenic cells. In contrast, predicted active site peptides targeting the disintegrin domain of ADAM 1, ADAM 2, ADAM 3 (cyritestin), ADAM 4, ADAM 5, ADAM 6, and ADAM 15 (metragidin) do not disturb significantly the attachment of spermatogenic cells to Sertoli cell surfaces. Spermatogenic cells dislodged from their attachment sites by the integrin beta1 subunit blocking antibody display annexin V immunoreactivity, a sign of early apoptosis. Time-lapse videomicroscopy demonstrates that the removal by apoptosis of a single member of a spermatogenic cell cohort inter-connected by cytoplasmic bridges does not affect the remaining members of the cohort. During spermatogenic cell apoptosis, integrin beta1, alpha3, and alpha6 subunits, and tetraspanins CD9 and C81 become displaced away from the developing apoptotic bodies. In contrast, the intermediate filament protein Sak57, a keratin 5 ortholog, concentrates in the developing apoptotic bodies. We propose that the redistribution of integrin-tetraspanin complexes during spermatogenic cell apoptosis may be evidence of a signaling cascade initiated by Sertoli cell geometric changes. As a result, Sertoli cell reduction in surface area may be a limiting factor of spermatogenic cell survival and in the developmental regulation of spermatogenic cell progenies in the intact seminiferous epithelium.

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