The epididymis has traditionally been divided into the caput, corpus, and cauda regions, which are further organized into intraregional segments. In the rat and mouse, these segments have high degrees of transcriptional differentiation, and what has traditionally been called the initial segment of the rat epididymis actually consists of three transcriptionally different intraregional segments. These segments are regulated by endocrine, lumicrine, and paracrine factors, whose relative importance remains a topic of investigation. In the present study, 15-day unilateral efferent duct ligation (EDL) was used to deprive ipsilateral rat epididymides of lumicrine regulation. Segments 1–4 of EDL epididymides and contralateral, sham-operated tissues were collected individually. Microarray analysis of gene expression was used to determine the effect of lumicrine factor deprivation on the transcriptome-wide gene expression of each segment studied. More than 11 000 genes were detected as being expressed in each of the four segments examined. More than 2000 genes responded significantly to EDL in segment 1, although this number of genes declined in each succeeding segment. Segments 1 and 2 of control tissues were the most different transcriptionally and the most affected by EDL. In the absence of lumicrine factors, the four segments regressed to a transcriptionally undifferentiated state, which was consistent with the less-differentiated histology seen after EDL. Interestingly, for an individual gene, lumicrine factor deprivation could stimulate expression in some segments and suppress expression in other segments. These results reveal a higher complexity to the regulation of rat epididymal segments than heretofore appreciated.
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Vol. 77 • No. 1