During spermatogenesis, developing spermatids and preleptotene spermatocytes are transported across the adluminal compartment and the blood-testis barrier (BTB), respectively, so that spermatids line up near the luminal edge to prepare for spermiation, whereas preleptotene spermatocytes enter the adluminal compartment to differentiate into late spermatocytes to prepare for meiosis I/II. These cellular events involve actin microfilament reorganization at the testis-specific, actin-rich Sertoli-spermatid and Sertoli-Sertoli cell junction called apical and basal ectoplasmic specialization (ES). Formin 1, an actin nucleation protein known to promote actin microfilament elongation and bundling, was expressed at the apical ES but limited to stage VII of the epithelial cycle, whereas its expression at the basal ES/BTB stretched from stage III to stage VI, diminished in stage VII, and was undetectable in stage VIII tubules. Using an in vitro model of studying Sertoli cell BTB function by RNA interference and biochemical assays to monitor actin bundling and polymerization activity, a knockdown of formin 1 in Sertoli cells by approximately70%impeded the tight junction-permeability function. This disruptive effect on the tight junction barrier was mediated by a loss of actin microfilament bundling and actin polymerization capability mediated by changes in the localization of branched actin-inducing protein Arp3 (actin-related protein 3), and actin bundling proteins Eps8 (epidermal growth factor receptor pathway substrate 8) and palladin, thereby disrupting cell adhesion. Formin 1 knockdown in vivo was found to impede spermatid adhesion, transport, and polarity, causing defects in spermiation in which elongated spermatids remained embedded into the epithelium in stage IX tubules, mediated by changes in the spatiotemporal expression of Arp3, Eps8,andpalladin. In summary, formin 1 is a regulator of ES dynamics.
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