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Biol Reprod. 2007 Jun;76(6):958-64. Epub 2007 Feb 21.

Members of the Toll-like receptor family of innate immunity pattern-recognition receptors are abundant in the male rat reproductive tract.

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Department of Biology, Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ 07764, USA.


Protecting developing and maturing spermatozoa and reproductive tissues from microbial damage is an emerging aspect of research in reproductive physiology. Bacterial, viral, and yeast infections of the testis and epididymis can hinder maturation and movement of spermatozoa, resulting in impaired fertility. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are a broad family of innate immunity receptors that play critical roles in detecting and responding to invading pathogens. Objectives of this study were to determine if organs of the rat male reproductive tract express mRNAs for members of the TLR family, to characterize expression patterns for TLRs in different regions of the epididymis, and to determine if TLR adaptor and target proteins are present in the male reproductive tract. Messenger RNA for Tlr1-Tlr9 was abundantly expressed in testis, epididymis, and vas deferens, as determined by RT-PCR, while Tlr10 and Tlr11 were less abundantly expressed. Tlr mRNA expression showed no region-specific patterns in the epididymis. Immunoblot analysis revealed relatively equal levels of protein for TLRs 1, 2, 4, and 6 in testis, all regions of the epididymis and vas deferens, and lower levels of TLRs 3, 5, and 9-11. TLR7 was primarily detected in the testis. The TLR adapter proteins, myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 and TLR adaptor molecule 1, as well as v-rel reticuloendotheliosis viral oncogene homolog and NFKBIA, were prominent in testis, epididymis, and vas deferens. The abundant expression of a majority of TLR family members together with expression of TLR adaptors and activation targets provides strong evidence that TLRs play important roles in innate immunity of the male reproductive tract.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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