Expression of claudin 11 (CLDN11), a tight junction (TJ) protein, was examined in the Korean soft-shelled turtle (Pelodiscus maackii) testis. Spermatogenesis began during the breeding season and peaked at the end of the breeding season. Spermiation started in summer and peaked in autumn. The deduced amino acid sequence of P. maackii CLDN11 was similar to those of avian and mammalian species. During the nonbreeding season when spermatogenesis and testosterone production were active, testicular Cldn11 levels were high. In the seminiferous epithelium, strong, wavy CLDN11 strands parallel to the basement membrane delaminate the spermatogonia, and early spermatocytes are in the open compartment. Otherwise, CLDN11 was found beneath the early spermatocytes and in the Sertoli cell cytoplasm. Punctate zonula occludens 1 (ZO-1) immunoreactivity was found within the CLDN11 strands parallel to the basement membrane or at the outermost periphery of the seminiferous epithelium close to the basal lamina. During the breeding season, when circulating testosterone levels and spermatogenic activity was low, testicular CLDN11 level was lower than those during the nonbreeding season. CLDN11 was found at apicolateral contact sites between adjacent Sertoli cells devoid of the postmeiotic germ cells. At this time, lanthanum tracer diffused to the adluminal compartment of seminiferous epithelium. In cultured testis tissues, testosterone propionate significantly increased the level of Cldn11 mRNA. In P. maackii testis, CLDN11 participates in the development of the blood-testis barrier (BTB), where the CLDN11 expression was coupled with spermatogenic activity and circulating androgen levels, indicating the conserved nature of TJs expressing CLDN11 at the BTB in amniotes.
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Vol. 92 • No. 4