Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), originally described as a T-cell product, has recently been identified in several endocrine organs. In the rat testis, MIF is secreted by the Leydig cells into testicular interstitial fluid that directly contacts Sertoli and peritubular cells. To investigate whether MIF is involved in calcium-dependent signal transduction, we have isolated rat Sertoli and peritubular cells. Despite progress in understanding functional properties of MIF, the molecular mechanism of MIF action in target cells is almost completely unknown. Here we find that recombinant MIF evokes a transient increase in calcium levels in peritubular cells but not in Sertoli cells from dissociated rat testis. Concentrations in the range between 12.5 ng/ml and 120 ng/ml of recombinant MIF were found to be effective, with 50 ng/ml yielding the largest increase in intracellular calcium. Preincubation of MIF with a neutralizing monoclonal antibody specifically blocked the response. Incubation of the peritubular cells in calcium-free buffer clearly decreased the evoked response in intracellular calcium concentration. However, the calcium response was greatly decreased by thapsigargin, an inhibitor of the Ca2 ATPase of the endoplasmic reticulum. The results strongly indicate that calcium is mobilized from reticulum stores during MIF-mediated signal transduction in the testis. In conclusion, our results provide the first characterization of MIF signal transduction in the testis and suggest that signaling from Leydig cells to peritubular cells through MIF is mediated by receptors coupled to release of intracellular calcium.
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