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Toxicol Sci. 2010 Oct;117(2):439-48. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfq210. Epub 2010 Jul 12.

Toxicant-induced leakage of germ cell-specific proteins from seminiferous tubules in the rat: relationship to blood-testis barrier integrity and prospects for biomonitoring.

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Medical Research Council Human Reproductive Sciences Unit, Centre for Reproductive Biology, The Queen's Medical Research Institute, Edinburgh EH16 4TJ, UK.


Evaluation of testicular toxicity during drug development is currently based on histopathological evaluation. A sensitive biomarker for testicular toxicology could provide an in-life and "early warning" measurement. Previous studies suggested that disruption of spermatogenesis induced leakage of germ cell proteins from seminiferous tubules (STs) into interstitial fluid (IF); such proteins have potential for use as biomarkers. To investigate this possibility further, adult male rats were treated with three testicular toxicants thought to have differing sites of action; cadmium chloride affects the blood-testis barrier (BTB), methoxyacetic acid (MAA) disrupts pachytene spermatocytes, and 1,3-dinitrobenzene (DNB) targets Sertoli cells. IF proteins were assessed by Coomassie-based dye-stained gels. Immunostaining was used to identify toxicant-induced damage (DAZL) and BTB integrity (ZO-1, occludin, N-cadherin, and β-catenin) and function (biotin). Cadmium chloride induced dose-dependent leakage of proteins from STs into IF coincident with loss of integrity and function of the BTB. Two of the "leaked" proteins were identified on Westerns as being germ cell specific, namely VASA and fatty acid-binding protein 9 (FABP9). In contrast, similar protein leakage was not evident after either MAA-induced or DNB-induced disruption of spermatogenesis and neither of these treatments affected BTB integrity or function. These results suggest that loss of BTB integrity is required for germ cell-specific proteins to leak from STs into IF, implying that use of such biomarkers has very limited potential for noninvasive monitoring of compound-induced disruption to spermatogenesis.

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