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Prog Histochem Cytochem. 2011 Aug;46(2):49-127. doi: 10.1016/j.proghi.2011.05.001. Epub 2011 Jun 25.

The blood-testis barrier: the junctional permeability, the proteins and the lipids.

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  • 1Université de Montréal faculty of Medicine, Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, Montréal, Canada.


The elucidation of how individual components of the Sertoli cell junctional complexes form and are dismantled to allow not only individual cells but whole syncytia of germinal cells to migrate from the basal to the lumenal compartment of the seminiferous epithelium without causing a permeability leak in the blood-testis barrier is amongst the most enigmatic yet, challenging and timely questions in testicular physiology. The intriguing key event in this process is how the barrier modulates its permeability during the periods of formation and dismantling of individual Sertoli cell junctions. The purpose of this review is therefore to first provide a reliable account on the normal formation, maintenance and dismantling process of the Sertoli cells junctions, then to assess the influence of the expression of their individual proteins, of the cytoskeleton associated with the junctions, and of the lipid content in the seminiferous tubules on the regulation of the their permeability barrier function. To help focus on the formation and dismantling of the Sertoli cell junctions, several considerations are based on data gleaned not only from rodents but from seasonal breeders as well because these animal models are characterized by exhaustive periods of junction assembly during development and the onset of the seasonal re-initiation of spermatogenesis as well as by an extensive junction dismantling period at the beginning of testicular regression, something unavailable in normal physiological conditions in continual breeders. Thus, the modulation of the permeability barrier function of the Sertoli cell junctions is analyzed in the physiological context of the blood-epidydimis barrier and in particular of the blood-testis barrier rather than in the context of a detailed account of the molecular composition and signalisation pathways of cell junctions. Moreover, the considerations discussed in this review are based on measurements performed on seminiferous tubule-enriched fractions gleaned at regular time intervals during development and the annual reproductive cycle.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

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