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Biol Reprod. 1990 Feb;42(2):351-65.

Characterization of rat testicular peritubular myoid cells in culture: alpha-smooth muscle isoactin is a specific differentiation marker.

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Banting and Best Department of Medical Research, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


In frozen sections of testes from 20-day-old rats, alpha-smooth muscle (SM) isoactin was prominently immunostained in the peritubular tissue and in vascular walls, but not in areas populated by germinal cells, interstitial cells, or Sertoli cells. Peritubular myoid cell (PMC)-enriched preparations were isolated by two different procedures involving our previously published sequential enzymatic treatment ("conventional peritubular cell [PC]-enriched preparation") and by density-gradient purification of PMC from these preparations. The properties of different populations of PMC in culture were compared with respect to plating efficiency, rates of proliferation, and presence of cytoskeletal proteins. PMC, maintained in culture under defined conditions, contained proteins immunoreactive with monoclonal antibodies against alpha-SM isoactin. This was detected by immunostaining and by Western blots of cell extracts subjected to gel electrophoresis. Neither Sertoli cells, skin fibroblasts, bovine endothelial cells, nor glial cells contained alpha-SM isoactin detectable by the above techniques. We report the ontogeny of alpha-SM isoactin in the peritubular tissue of testes at different stages of gonadal development, and show that it is detectable within 8 days after birth. In addition, we describe immunocytochemical changes that occur during culture in various media of PMC prepared from testes of 20-day-old rats. We compare the use of alpha-SM isoactin as a differentiation marker for PMC with the use of desmin in facilitating the identification of PMC, and in following alterations in phenotype during culture in various culture media. Data presented demonstrate that about 81% of cells in the "conventional PC-enriched preparation," and about 94% of cells in the more purified populations of PMC were positive for alpha-SM isoactin in cells maintained in culture for 18 h after plating. These same PMC also were shown to express vimentin and plasminogen activator inhibitor, type 1. We conclude that alpha-SM isoactin is an excellent specific marker for PMC in seminiferous tubules and in culture.

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