Sertoli cells provide nutritional and physical support to germ cells during spermatogenesis. Sox8 encodes a member of the high mobility group of transcription factors closely related to Sox9 and Sox10. Sertoli cells express SOX8 protein, and its elimination results in an age-dependent dysregulation of spermatogenesis, causing adult male infertility. Among the claudin genes with altered expression in the Sox8−/− testes, was claudin-3, which is required for the regulation and maintenance of the blood-testes barrier (BTB). Because the BTB is critical in restricting small molecules in the luminal compartment of the seminiferous tubules, the aim of this study was to analyze the level of tight junction proteins (claudin-3, claudin-11, and occludin) and BTB permeability in Sox8−/− adult testes. The acetylation level of alpha-tubulin and microtubule organization was also evaluated because microtubules are critical in maintaining the microenvironment of the seminiferous epithelium. Western blot analysis shows that claudin-3 protein is decreased in Sox8−/− testes. Chromatin immunoprecipitation confirmed that SOX8 binds at the promoter region of claudin-3. Claudin-3 was localized to the Sertoli cell tight junctions of wild-type testes and significantly decreased in the Sox8−/− testes. The use of biotin tracers showed increased BTB permeability in the Sox8−/− adult testes. Electron microscopy analysis showed that microtubule structures were destabilized in the Sox8−/− testes. These results suggest that Sox8 is essential in Sertoli cells for germ cell differentiation, partly by controlling the microenvironment of the seminiferous epithelium.
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Vol. 88 • No. 5