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Int J Androl. 2012 Aug;35(4):550-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2605.2011.01225.x. Epub 2011 Nov 15.

High levels of the extracellular matrix proteoglycan decorin are associated with inhibition of testicular function.

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Anatomy and Cell Biology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Munich, Germany.


Decorin (DCN), a component of the extracellular matrix of the peritubular wall and the interstitial areas of the human testis, can interact with growth factor (GF) signalling, thereby blocking downstream actions of GFs. In the present study the expression and regulation of DCN using both human testes and two experimental animal models, namely the rhesus monkey and mouse, were examined. DCN protein was present in peritubular and interstitial areas of adult human and monkey testes, while it was almost undetectable in adult wild type mice. Interestingly, the levels and sites of testicular DCN expression in the monkeys were inversely correlated with testicular maturation markers. A strong DCN expression associated with the abundant connective tissue of the interstitial areas in the postnatal through pre-pubertal phases was observed. In adult and old monkeys the DCN pattern was similar to the one in normal human testes, presenting strong expression at the peritubular region. In the testes of both infertile men and in a mouse model of inflammation associated infertility (aromatase-overexpressing transgenic mice), the fibrotic changes and increased numbers of tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α-producing immune cells were shown to be associated with increased production of DCN. Furthermore, studies with human testicular peritubular cells isolated from fibrotic testis indicated that TNF-α significantly increased DCN production. The data, thus, show that an increased DCN level is associated with impaired testicular function, supporting our hypothesis that DCN interferes with paracrine signalling of the testis in health and disease.

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