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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2011 Jan;300(1):R121-39. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00500.2010. Epub 2010 Oct 20.

CX43 expression, phosphorylation, and distribution in the normal and autoimmune orchitic testis with a look at gap junctions joining germ cell to germ cell.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, Université de Montréal, Canada.


Spermatogenesis requires connexin 43 (Cx43).This study examines normal gene transcription, translation, and phosphorylation of Cx43 to define its role on germ cell growth and Sertoli cell's differentiation, and identifies abnormalities arising from spontaneous autoimmune orchitis (AIO) in mink, a seasonal breeder and a natural model for autoimmunity. Northern blot analysis detected 2.8- and a 3.7-kb Cx43 mRNA bands in seminiferous tubule-enriched fractions. Cx43 mRNA increased in seminiferous tubule-enriched fractions throughout development and then seasonally with the completion of spermatogenesis. Cx43 protein levels increased transiently during the colonization of the tubules by the early-stage spermatocytes. Cx43 phosphorylated (PCx43) and nonphosphorylated (NPCx43) in Ser368 decreased during the periods of completion of meiosis and Sertoli cell differentiation, while Cx43 mRNA remained elevated throughout. PCx43 labeled chiefly the plasma membrane except by stage VII when vesicles were also labeled in Sertoli cells. Vesicles and lysosomes in Sertoli cells and the Golgi apparatus in the round spermatids were NPCx43 positive. A decrease in Cx43 gene expression was matched by a Cx43 protein increase in the early, not the late, phase of AIO. Total Cx43 and PCx43 decreased with the advance of orchitis. The study makes a novel finding of gap junctions connecting germ cells. The data indicate that Cx43 protein expression and phosphorylation in Ser368 are stage-specific events that may locally influence the acquisition of meiotic competence and the Sertoli cell differentiation in normal testis. AIO modifies Cx43 levels, suggesting changes in Cx43-mediated intercommunication and spermatogenic activity in response to cytokines imbalances in Sertoli cells.

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