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Spermatogenesis. 2011 Oct;1(4):325-338. Epub 2011 Oct 1.

Connexins and pannexins: Coordinating cellular communication in the testis and epididymis.

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  • 1INRS-Institut Armand Frappier; University of Quebec; Laval, QC Canada.


Gap junctions and connexins are critical for coordinating cellular functions in complex epithelia. In recent years there has been increased interest in understanding the regulation and function of gap junctions in both the testis and epididymis. Studies in transgenic mice in which connexin 43 (Cx43) is mutated or is knocked down only in Sertoli cells have demonstrated the essential role of Cx43 in spermatogenesis and differentiation of Sertoli cells. In the epididymis developmental studies have shown a role for numerous connexins in the differentiation of epithelial cells and communication between the basal cells and both principal and clear cells. In both tissues several factors, such thyroid hormones and androgens, are important in regulating expression and function of connexins. Pannexins, which form cellular channels but are structurally similar to gap junction proteins, have been identified in both testis and epididymis and, in the epididymis, are regulated by androgens. The objective of this review is to summarize the advances that have been made on the role and regulation of connexins and pannexins in the testis and epididymis and their implication in spermatogenesis and sperm maturation.

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