The testicular vasculature is unique in several ways. The unfenestrated endothelial cells constitute one part of the blood-testis barrier, and testicular microvessels are normally resistant to inflammation mediators. At the same time that angiogenic factors and inflammation mediators are constitutively produced, the proportion of proliferating endothelial cells is considerably higher than in other organs, but new blood vessels are not formed. Hormonal stimulation of the testis with hCG increase endothelial cell proliferation, vascular permeability, and sensitivity to locally injected inflammation mediators. In the present study, we examined whether local expression of angiopoietin (ang) 1, an inhibitor of vascular leakage and sprouting angiogenesis, and its antagonist, ang 2, could be involved in establishing this vascular phenotype. Using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry, we demonstrate that testicular vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A), ang 1, ang 2, and the ang-receptor tie 2 are expressed in the testis and that hormonal stimulation with hCG is accompanied by increased expression of VEGF-A and ang 2. The ang 1 protein is expressed in testicular microvessels under basal conditions, and it is largely unaffected after hCG stimulation. Expression of ang 2 in microvessels, in contrast, is low under basal conditions and is up-regulated by hCG. Intratesticular injection of human recombinant ang 1 protein inhibits hCG-induced increase in vascular permeability. Injection of ang 2 in the testis increases endothelial cell proliferation and the volume of the interstitial space. We therefore suggest that ang 1 stabilizes testicular microvessels under basal conditions and that a shift in this balance caused by increased ang 2, together with increased VEGF-A, allows vascular leakage, high endothelial cell proliferation, and presumably, vascular growth after hormonal stimulation.
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