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Int Rev Cell Mol Biol. 2013;303:319-55. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-407697-6.00008-8.

New insights into roles of tubulobulbar complexes in sperm release and turnover of blood-testis barrier.

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Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Tubulobulbar complexes are actin-filament-related structures that form at intercellular junctions in the seminiferous epithelium of mammalian testis. The structures occur both at adhesion junctions between Sertoli cells and the maturing spermatids in apical regions of the epithelium, and at junction complexes between neighboring Sertoli cells near the base of the epithelium. Here, we review the general morphology and molecular composition of tubulobulbar complexes, and also include a description of tubulobulbar complex structure in the human seminiferous epithelium. Although tubulobulbar complexes are unique to the seminiferous epithelium, they have the molecular signature of clathrin-based endocytosis machinery present generally in cells. We review the evidence that tubulobulbar complexes internalize intact intercellular junctions and are significant components of the sperm-release mechanism and the process by which spermatocytes translocate from basal to adluminal compartments of the epithelium.

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