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Arch Histol Cytol. 2000 Mar;63(1):1-15.

Unique and multifunctional adhesion junctions in the testis: ectoplasmic specializations.

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Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


In this paper, we review the structure and function of a unique type of actin-related intercellular adhesion junctions in the testis. Based on their ultrastructure, the junctions are divided into five distinct domains. The currently identified molecular components of each domain are summarized. In addition, the architecture of the mammalian system is compared with that of non-mammalian vertebrates. Functionally, the junctions are related to the turnover of adhesion between Sertoli cells, to the attachment of spermatids to the seminiferous epithelium, and to sperm release. They also are part of the mechanism by which spermatids are moved through the epithelium. Evidence consistent with adhesion and motility related functions is discussed. Control, both of junction turnover and of microtubule-based transport, is identified as an important avenue for future research.

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