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Spermatogenesis. 2012 Oct 1;2(4):285-293.

Regulation of drug transporters in the testis by environmental toxicant cadmium, steroids and cytokines.

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  • 1The Mary M. Wohlford Laboratory for Male Contraceptive Research; Center for Biomedical Research; Population Council; New York, NY USA.


The blood-testis barrier (BTB) provides an efficient barrier to restrict paracellular and transcellular transport of substances, such as toxicants and drugs, limiting their entry to the testis to cause injury. This is achieved by the coordinated actions of efflux and influx transporters at the BTB, which are integral membrane proteins that interact with their substrates, such as drugs and toxicants. An efflux transporter (e.g., P-glycoprotein) can either restrict the entry of drugs/toxicants into the testis or actively pump drugs/toxicants out of Sertoli and/or germ cells if they have entered the seminiferous epithelium via influx pumps. This thus provides an effective mechanism to safeguard spermatogenesis. Using Sertoli cells cultured in vitro with an established tight junction (TJ)-permeability barrier which mimicked the BTB in vivo and treated with cadmium chloride (CdCl2), and also in adult rats (~300 g b.w.) treated with CdCl2 (3 mg/kg b.w., via i.p.) to induce testicular injury, cadmium was found to significantly downregulate the expression of efflux (e.g., P-glycoprotein, Mrp1, Abcg1) and influx (e.g., Oatp3, Slc15a1, Scl39a8) transporters. For instance, treatment of Sertoli cells with cadmium induced significant loss of P-glycoprotein and Oatp-3 at the cell-cell interface, which likely facilitated cadmium entry into the Sertoli cell. These findings illustrate that one of the mechanisms by which cadmium enters the testis is mediated by downregulating the expression of drug transporters at the BTB. Furthermore, cytokines and steroids were found to have differential effects in regulating the expression of drug transporters. Summary, the expression of drug transporters in the testis is regulated by toxicants, steroids and cytokines.

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