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Reprod Fertil Dev. 1996;8(7):1075-87.

Expression of nerve growth factor and neurotrophin receptors in testicular cells suggest novel roles for neurotrophins outside the nervous system.

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  • 1Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Braunschweig, FRG.


The present study was designed to clarify the non-neurotrophic role for neurotrophins in mouse testis. By means of SI nuclease protection assay we could demonstrate that the gene coding for the low-affinity nerve growth factor (NGF) receptor p75NGFR is transiently expressed during germ cell development. Gene expression for p75NGFR was detected in late-meiotic spermatocytes and early spermatids and was found to be co-expressed with trkB and trkC, two tyrosine kinase receptors, commonly regarded as the high-affinity receptors for brain-derived neurotrophic factor and neurotrophin-3. Gene transcripts for the high-affinity NGF receptor trkA were found exclusively in non-germ cells. Isolated Leydig cells, peritubular myoid cells and Sertoli cells, but not germ cells, could be identified as potential testicular NGF sources. Non-germ cells respond after incubation for several days with a sharp induction in NGF synthesis, which is accompanied by a loss of phenotypic expression patterns. The fact that p75NGFR mRNA expression was induced in cultured Sertoli cells and peritubular myoid cells suggests an autocrine mode of NGF action in these cells. Induction of NGF synthesis in cultured Leydig cells could be prevented by the glucocorticoid dexamethasone. Results indicate different roles for the individual neurotrophins in distinct testicular compartments and suggest that these neurotrophins might support testicular functions by signalling between individual cell types in an autocrine and paracrine manner.

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