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Spermatogenesis. 2013 Jan 1;3(1):e23870.

Dual role of immune cells in the testis: Protective or pathogenic for germ cells?

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Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas; UBA/CONICET; Facultad de Medicina; Universidad de Buenos Aires; Buenos Aires, Argentina.


The purpose of this review is to describe how the immune cells present in the testis interact with the germinal epithelium contributing to survival or apoptosis of germ cells (GCs). Physiologically, the immunosuppressor testicular microenvironment protects GCs from immune attack, whereas in inflammatory conditions, tolerance is disrupted and immune cells and their mediators respond to GC self antigens, inducing damage of the germinal epithelium. Considering that experimental models of autoimmune orchitis have clarified the local immune mechanisms by which protection of the testis is compromised, we described the following topics in the testis of normal and orchitic rats: (1) cell adhesion molecule expression of seminiferous tubule specialized junctions and modulation of blood-testis barrier permeability by cytokines (2) phenotypic and functional characteristics of testicular dendritic cells, macrophages, effector and regulatory T cells and mast cells and (3) effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-6 and FasL) and the nitric oxide-nitric oxide synthase system on GC apoptosis.


blood-testis barrier; cytokines; germ cell apoptosis; immune cells; inflammation; nitric oxide; seminiferous tubules; testis

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