Protein kinases and adherens junction dynamics in the seminiferous epithelium of the rat testis



Earlier studies in multiple epithelia have shown that cell–cell actin-based adherens junction (AJ) dynamics are regulated, at least in part, by the interplay of kinases and phosphatases that determines the intracellular phosphoprotein content. Yet it is virtually unknown regarding the role of protein kinases in Sertoli–germ cell AJ dynamics in the seminiferous epithelium of the testis. To address this issue, an in vitro coculture system utilizing Sertoli and germ cells was used to study the regulation of several protein kinases, including c-Src (the cellular form of the v-src transforming gene of Rous Sarcoma virus, RSV), carboxyl-terminal Src kinase (Csk), and casein kinase 2 (CK2), during AJ assembly. Both Sertoli and germ cells were shown to express c-Src, Csk, and CK2 with a relative Sertoli:germ cell ratio of ∼1:1, suggesting both cell types contributed equally to the pool of these kinases in the epithelium. c-Src and Csk were shown to be stage-specific proteins during the epithelial cycle, being highest at stages VII–VIII. Studies using immunoprecipitation have illustrated that these kinases were structurally associated with the N-cadherin/β-catenin, but not the nectin/afadin, protein complex, implicating that the cadherin/catenin protein complex is their likely putative substrate. An induction in c-Src, Csk, and CK2 were detected during Sertoli–germ cell AJ assembly in vitro but not when Sertoli cells were cultured alone. When adult rats were treated with 1-(2,4-dichlorobenzyl)-indazole-3-carbohydrazide (AF-2364), a compound known to induce germ cell loss from the seminiferous epithelium, in particular elongating/elongate and round spermatids, by disrupting Sertoli–germ cell AJs, an induction of c-Src and Csk, but not CK2, was detected. Furthermore, a transient increase in the intrinsic kinase activities of c-Src, but not CK2, was also detected. This event was also associated with a loss of protein–protein association of N-cadherin and β-catenin from the cadherin/catenin/c-Src/Csk/CK2 protein complex. Administration of PP1, a c-Src inhibitor, into adult rats via the jugular vein could induce the loss of spermatocytes and round spermatids, but not elongating/elongate spermatids, from the seminiferous epithelium. This result thus implicates the importance of c-Src in maintaining the integrity of AJs and possibly desmosome-like junctions between Sertoli cells and spermatocytes/round spermatids. In short, the data reported herein have shown that c-Src, Csk, and CK2 are novel protein kinases in AJ dynamics in the testis. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.