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Endocrinology. 1994 Feb;134(2):630-9.

Cadherins and cadherin-associated molecules in the developing and maturing rat testis.

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Department of Cell Biology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. 20007-2197.


The calcium-dependent class of cell adhesion molecules known as cadherins mediate homotypic cell interactions in most epithelia. We have now investigated the expression and distribution of cadherins and cadherin-associated molecules in the developing and maturing rat testis. E-Cadherin was not detected in the seminiferous tubule at any time in development or in the adult. In contrast, Leydig cells expressed E-cadherin between day 15 of gestation and postnatal day 3. alpha- and beta-catenins were expressed throughout the developing testis, but were particularly prominent in Leydig cells. In the maturing testis, alpha-catenin and plakoglobin became progressively more restricted to the basal part of the seminiferous epithelium and by 23 days exhibited a pattern characteristic of the Sertoli cell junctional complex. beta-Catenin recruitment to the Sertoli cell junctional complex was not complete until 60 days. alpha-Catenin and plakoglobin were not present at sites of Sertoli cell-germ cell contacts. Northern blot analysis of testicular RNA showed three mRNA species hybridizing with N-cadherin cDNA. A pan-cadherin antibody specific for a region of the highly conserved C-terminal of all cadherins stained sites of Sertoli-spermatocyte and Sertoli-round spermatid contact in the adult rat seminiferous epithelium, but did not stain the Sertoli cell tight junctional complex. Western blots of testicular extracts indicated that the molecule(s) recognized by these antibodies had an approximate molecular mass of 120 kilodalton, typical of members of the cadherin family. Therefore, although Sertoli cells do not express E-cadherin, another member(s) of the cadherin family is present in the testis, but may not be directly involved in tight junction dynamics as in other cells. Instead, cadherin-mediated adhesion is likely to be involved in Sertoli cell-germ cell interactions. As catenins are not present at these sites, our results suggest a catenin-independent role of cadherins in germ cell adhesion to Sertoli cells.

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