A subset of basal cells (BCs) in the initial segment (IS) of the mouse epididymis has a slender body projection between adjacent epithelial cells. We show here that these projections occasionally cross the apical tight junctions and are in contact with the luminal environment. Luminal testicular factors are critical for the establishment of the IS epithelium, and we investigated their role in the regulation of this luminal sensing property. Efferent duct ligation (EDL) was performed to block luminal flow from the testis without affecting blood flow. Cytokeratin 5 (KRT5) labeling showed a time-dependent reduction of the percentage of BCs with intercellular projections from 1 to 5 days after EDL, compared to controls. Double labeling for caspase-3 and KRT5 showed that a subset of BCs undergoes apoptosis 1 day after EDL. Ki67/KRT5 double labeling showed a low rate of BC proliferation under basal conditions. However, EDL induced a marked increase in the proliferation rate of a subset of BCs 2 days after EDL. A 2-wk treatment with the androgen receptor antagonist flutamide did not affect the number of BCs with intercellular projections, but reduced BC proliferation. Flutamide treatment also reduced the increase in BC proliferation induced 2 days after EDL. We conclude that, in the adult mouse IS, 1) luminal testicular factors play an important role in the ability of BCs to extend their body projection towards the lumen, and are essential for the survival of a subset of BCs; 2) androgens play an important role in the proliferation of some of the BCs that survive the initial insult induced by EDL; and 3) the formation and elongation of BC intercellular projections do not depend on androgens.
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Vol. 92 • No. 1