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Biol Reprod. 2007 May;76(5):804-12. Epub 2007 Jan 17.

Proliferation of adult sertoli cells following conditional knockout of the Gap junctional protein GJA1 (connexin 43) in mice.

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Department of Veterinary Biosciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61802, USA.


GJA1 (also known and referred to here as connexin 43 and abbreviated CX43) is the predominant testicular gap junction protein, and CX43 may regulate Sertoli cell maturation and spermatogenesis. We hypothesized that lack of CX43 would inhibit Sertoli cell differentiation and extend proliferation. To test this, a Sertoli cell-specific Cx43 knockout (SC-Cx43 KO) mouse was generated using Cre-lox technology. Immunohistochemistry indicated that CX43 was not expressed in the Sertoli cells of SC-Cx43 KO mice, but was normal in organs such as the heart. Testicular weight was reduced by 41% and 76% in SC-Cx43 KO mice at 20 and 60 days, respectively, vs. wild-type (wt) mice. Seminiferous tubules of SC-Cx43 KO mice contained only Sertoli cells and actively proliferating early spermatogonia. Sertoli cells normally cease proliferation at 2 wk of age in mice and become terminally differentiated. However, proliferating Sertoli cells were present in SC-Cx43 KO but not wt mice at 20 and 60 days of age. Thyroid hormone receptor alpha (THRA) is high in proliferating Sertoli cells, then declines sharply in adulthood. Thra mRNA expression was increased in 20-day SC-Cx43 KO vs. wt mice, and it showed a trend toward an increase in 60-day mice, indicating that loss of CX43 in Sertoli cells inhibited their maturation. In conclusion, we have generated mice lacking CX43 in Sertoli cells but not other tissues. Our data indicate that CX43 in Sertoli cells is essential for spermatogenesis but not spermatogonial maintenance/proliferation. SC-Cx43 KO mice showed continued Sertoli cell proliferation and delayed maturation in adulthood, indicating that CX43 plays key roles in Sertoli cell development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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