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Endocrinology. 2008 Apr;149(4):1678-86. doi: 10.1210/en.2007-1064. Epub 2008 Jan 10.

Exploring human testicular peritubular cells: identification of secretory products and regulation by tumor necrosis factor-alpha.

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Institute of Anatomy, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Biedersteiner Strasse 29, Munich, Germany.


Testicular peritubular cells are myofibroblastic cells, which represent the major cellular components of the wall of the seminiferous tubules. In men their phenotypic characteristics, including possible secretory activity and regulation, are not well known, in neither normal nor pathologically altered testes. Especially in testes of men with impaired spermatogenesis, the cytoarchitecture of the tubular wall is frequently remodeled and presents fibrotic thickening, increased innervation, and infiltration by macrophages and mast cells. The latter are two sources of TNF-alpha. The purpose of our study was to explore human testicular peritubular cells and mechanisms of their regulation. To this end we primarily studied cultured human testicular peritubular cells (HTPCs), isolated from adult human testes. Having established that HTPCs express TNF-alpha receptors 1 and 2 and respond to recombinant human TNF-alpha by a rapid phosphorylation of ERK1/2, we used complementary approaches, including gene array/RT-PCR studies, Western blotting/immunocytochemistry, and ELISA techniques to study phenotypic characteristics of HTPCs and actions of TNFalpha. We found that HTPCs express the nerve growth factor gene and TNF-alpha-stimulated mRNA levels and secretion of nerve growth factor in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Similarly, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 was identified as a product of HTPCs, which was regulated by TNF-alpha in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. TNF-alpha furthermore strongly enhanced expression and/or synthesis of other inflammatory molecules, namely IL-6 and cyclooxygenase-2. Active cyclooxygenase-2 is indicated by increased prostaglandin D2 levels. In addition, intercellular adhesion molecule-1, which was not detected at protein level in the absence of TNF-alpha, was induced upon TNF-alpha stimulation. In conclusion, these results provide novel insights into the nature of human peritubular cells, which are able to secrete potent signaling molecules and are regulated by TNF-alpha. These results also hint to an as-yet-unknown role of peritubular cells in normal human testis and involvement in the pathomechanisms associated with impaired spermatogenesis in men.

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