Abnormal spermatogenesis is an important pathophysiological process underlying male infertility. Apoptosis of spermatogenic cells and disruption of ectoplasmic specialization (ES) have been characterized as the key biological events of this disorder. Under physiological and pathophysiological conditions (such as exposure to starvation, environmental chemicals, radiation), autophagy is activated in spermatogenic or Sertoli cells in order to maintain survival of the spermatogenic cells by inhibiting spermatogenic cell apoptosis and stabilizing the integrity of ES via degradation of PDZ and LIM domain 1 (PDLIM1), a negative regulator of cytoskeletal organization. Here, we review the most recent research progress towards understanding the pivotal effects of autophagy on spermatogenesis.
Autophagy plays a prosurvival role in spermatogenic cells and promotes stabilization of the integrity of ES, either by directly inhibiting apoptosis of spermatogenic cells and degrading PDLIM1 or indirectly by suppressing intracellular stressors.