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J Reprod Immunol. 2002 Oct-Nov;57(1-2):19-34.

Macrophages and the immune responsiveness of the testis.

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Monash Institute of Reproduction and Development, Monash Medical Centre, Monash University, Clayton, Melbourne, Vic., Australia.


Immune responses within the testis are regulated in a manner that provides protection for the developing male germ cells, while permitting qualitatively normal inflammatory responses and protection against infection. The large population of resident-type macrophages in the testis is strongly implicated in mediating this specialised immunological environment. Several studies in the rat have shown that testicular macrophages retain their cytotoxic and phagocytic capacity, but have greatly diminished pro-inflammatory function and even exhibit immunosuppressive activity. While the local mechanisms that control the phenotype of the testicular macrophage population are unknown, evidence points to the influence of the testicular somatic cells, the Sertoli and Leydig cells. A smaller but significant population of macrophages that lack expression of resident macrophage markers, is also found in the rat testis. The functional role of these macrophages remains to be defined, but they most likely represent circulating monocytes or newly-arrived testicular macrophages, and, therefore, may contribute to sustaining inflammatory responses within the testis. Further investigation of the immune-related functions of these different macrophage subsets, and the testicular somatic cells, during immunological and inflammatory events should provide a better understanding of how the testicular immune environment is maintained and regulated.

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