The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of propylthiouracil (PTU)-induced neonatal hypothyroidism on the gap junctional protein Cx43 in rat testis and epididymis. PTU (0.02%) was administered via lactation from birth to Day 30, and the rats were sampled at 14, 18, 22, 26, 30, and 91 days of age. Testicular Cx43 was localized along the plasma membranes and cytoplasm of Sertoli cells until Day 22. At Day 30, the immunostaining was localized exclusively along the plasma membrane of Sertoli cells. In PTU-treated rats, Cx43 did not localize to the plasma membrane and was still cytoplasmic at 30 days of age. Occludin was present in tubules of treated rats, but was not localized to the blood-testis barrier in 30-day-old rats, as in controls. There were no differences in Cx43 immunostaining in the adult testis. In the proximal epididymis (initial segment, caput, corpus), Cx43 mRNA levels were lower in PTU-treated rats at 14, 18, and 22 days of age, but no differences were observed in the distal (cauda) epididymis at these ages. In 22- and 30-day-old rats, Cx43 was localized along the plasma membrane between principal and basal cells throughout the epididymis. In PTU-treated rats, Cx43 was not detectable in initial segment, caput, or corpus epididymidis. In the cauda epididymidis, however, Cx43 immunostaining in PTU-treated rats was similar to controls. These data suggest that thyroid hormones regulate Cx43-dependent gap junctional communication in the testis and epididymis.
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