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Endocrinology. 1998 Jul;139(7):3081-7.

Expression of interferons-alpha and -gamma in testicular interstitial tissue and spermatogonia of the rat.

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GERM-INSERM U-435, Université de Rennes I, Campus de Beaulieu, Bretagne, France.


The testis is divided into two compartments: the seminiferous tubules and the interstitial tissue. The latter essentially consists of the blood and lymphatic vessels, testosterone-producing Leydig cells, and testicular macrophages. In the exploration of the testicular antiviral defense system, we initially searched for interferon (IFN) production by the seminiferous tubule cells. The site of virus entry into the testis is probably the interstitial compartment; thus, it is important to know whether and how the cells in this compartment are protected against viral infection. In addition, as germ cell precursors (spermatogonia) are only partially protected by the blood-testis barrier, it was important to explore the antiviral capability of these cells. In this study we searched for IFN production by Leydig cells, testicular macrophages, and spermatogonia after exposure to Sendai virus. We also investigated the effect of viral exposure on testosterone production by Leydig cells. Our results show that spermatogonia do not constitutively express IFNs and give a very poor response to the virus. In contrast, testicular macrophages constitutively produced type I IFNs, and this production was markedly stimulated by Sendai virus. Leydig cells produced twice as much type I IFNs as testicular macrophages after viral exposure, and they were the only cells producing both IFNalpha and -gamma, with these IFNs being dramatically induced/ increased in response to exposure to the virus. Furthermore, incubation of Leydig cells with the Sendai virus stimulated testosterone production. In conclusion, this study further establishes the topography of IFN expression within the testis. This allows us to hypothesize that the potential antiviral system represented by Leydig cells and, to a lesser extent, by macrophages plays a key role in protecting both androgen production and spermatogenesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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