Spermatogenesis is an intriguing but complicated biological process. However, many studies since the 1960s have focused either on the hormonal events of the hypothalamus-pituitary-testicular axis or morphological events that take place in the seminiferous epithelium. Recent advances in biochemistry, cell biology, and molecular biology have shifted attention to understanding some of the key events that regulate spermatogenesis, such as germ cell apoptosis, cell cycle regulation, Sertoli-germ cell communication, and junction dynamics. In this review, we discuss the physiology and biology of junction dynamics in the testis, in particular how these events affect interactions of Sertoli and germ cells in the seminiferous epithelium behind the blood-testis barrier. We also discuss how these events regulate the opening and closing of the blood-testis barrier to permit the timely passage of preleptotene and leptotene spermatocytes across the blood-testis barrier. This is physiologically important since developing germ cells must translocate across the blood-testis barrier as well as traverse the seminiferous epithelium during their development. We also discuss several available in vitro and in vivo models that can be used to study Sertoli-germ cell anchoring junctions and Sertoli-Sertoli tight junctions. An in-depth survey in this subject has also identified several potential targets to be tackled to perturb spermatogenesis, which will likely lead to the development of novel male contraceptives.
Address for reprint requests and other correspondence: C. Y. Cheng, Population Council, Center for Biomedical Research, 1230 York Ave., New York, NY 10021 (E-mail:).
- Copyright © 2002 The American Physiological Society