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Mol Endocrinol. 2009 Nov;23(11):1900-13. doi: 10.1210/me.2009-0184. Epub 2009 Oct 9.

Retinoblastoma protein plays multiple essential roles in the terminal differentiation of Sertoli cells.

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Department of Pathology, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Retinoblastoma protein (RB) plays crucial roles in cell cycle control and cellular differentiation. Specifically, RB impairs the G(1) to S phase transition by acting as a repressor of the E2F family of transcriptional activators while also contributing towards terminal differentiation by modulating the activity of tissue-specific transcription factors. To examine the role of RB in Sertoli cells, the androgen-dependent somatic support cell of the testis, we created a Sertoli cell-specific conditional knockout of Rb. Initially, loss of RB has no gross effect on Sertoli cell function because the mice are fertile with normal testis weights at 6 wk of age. However, by 10-14 wk of age, mutant mice demonstrate severe Sertoli cell dysfunction and infertility. We show that mutant mature Sertoli cells continue cycling with defective regulation of multiple E2F1- and androgen-regulated genes and concurrent activation of apoptotic and p53-regulated genes. The most striking defects in mature Sertoli cell function are increased permeability of the blood-testis barrier, impaired tissue remodeling, and defective germ cell-Sertoli cell interactions. Our results demonstrate that RB is essential for proper terminal differentiation of Sertoli cells.

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