We investigated the effects of aging on Sertoli cell-germ cell interactions from Brown Norway rats using the induction of four specific mRNAs as markers. The testes from aging (24 mo old) Brown Norway rats can be normal size or regressed. One marker, a von Ebner's-like protein, is expressed in coculture and “in vivo” in germ cells from normal testes of 6- and 24-mo-old rats but not in germ cells from regressed testes of 24-mo-old rats. A second germ cell marker, the Huntington disease protein, is expressed in all germ cells. Two Sertoli cell markers, a serotonin receptor and a novel gene, are induced in Sertoli cells by meiotic germ cells. The serotonin receptor mRNA is expressed in Sertoli cells from 20-day, 6-mo, and 24-mo normal testes but not in those from 24-mo regressed testes. The novel gene is induced in Sertoli cells from all testes. We conclude that Sertoli cells from aged regressed testes are unable to respond to selective signals from germ cells from young rats, and germ cells from regressed testes show a similar selective loss. Such disruptions in communication between Sertoli cells and germ cells likely contribute to germ cell loss during aging.
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