CDH2 (cadherin 2, Neural-cadherin, or N-cadherin) is the predominant protein of testicular basal ectoplasmic specializations (basal ES; a testis-specific type of adhesion junction), one of the major cell junctions composing the blood-testis barrier (BTB). The BTB is found between adjacent Sertoli cells in seminiferous tubules, which divides the tubules into basal and adluminal compartments and prevents the deleterious exchange of macromolecules between blood and seminiferous tubules. However, the exact roles of basal ES protein CDH2 in BTB function and spermatogenesis is still unknown. We thus generated mice with Cdh2 specifically knocked out in Sertoli cells by crossing Cdh2 loxP mice with Amh-Cre mice. Cdh2 deletion in Sertoli cells did not affect Sertoli cell counts, but led to compromised BTB function, delayed meiotic progression from prophase to metaphase I in testes, increased germ cell apoptosis, sloughing of meiotic cells, and, subsequently, reduced sperm counts in epididymides and subfertility of mice. However, the testes with Cdh2-specific deletion in germ cells did not show any difference from the normal control testes, and phenotypes observed in Sertoli cell and germ cell Cdh2 double-knockout mice were indistinguishable from those in mice with Cdh2 specifically knocked out only in Sertoli cells. Taken together, our data demonstrate that the adhesion junction component, Cdh2, functions just in Sertoli cells, but not in germ cells during spermatogenesis, and is essential for the integrity of BTB function, its deletion in Sertoli cells would lead to the BTB damage and subsequently meiosis and spermatogenesis failure.
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Vol. 92 • No. 3