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J Immunol. 1988 Aug 15;141(4):1161-7.

Autoantigenic germ cells exist outside the blood testis barrier.

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Department of Pathology, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque 87131.


Preleptotene spermatocytes and spermatogonia are germ cells located outside the blood-testis barrier provided by the Sertoli cells. These cells have been found to express autoantigens accessible to circulating antibodies. Mice immunized with syngeneic testis with or without bacterial adjuvant had detectable IgG on cells at the periphery of seminiferous tubules. Sera from orchiectomized but not from testes-intact mice immunized with testis and adjuvants readily transferred similar IgG deposits to testes of normal recipients. When testis-specific antisera from orchiectomized mice and testis-intact mice were compared for their reactivity on prepuberal testicular cells, serum from orchiectomized donors had significantly higher reactivity. Ig was eluted from IgG-positive testes with acid buffer and was shown to be highly enriched in antibody to prepuberal testicular cells, confirming the Ag-specific nature of the IgG deposits. The testis IgG deposits reacted with antisera to IgG1 and IgG3 but not IgG2a or IgG2b. This finding can explain lack of association of C3 in the deposits. Only 30 to 40% of seminiferous tubules had IgG deposits and they coincided with stages 7 to 12 of the spermatogenic cycle. Thus, the expression of the autoantigens is stage specific. The in situ formation of immune complexes by circulating autoantibodies demonstrates conclusively that testis autoantigens are not completely sequestered, and the blood-testis barrier as an immunologic barrier is incomplete.

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