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Internalization of Intact Intercellular Junctions in the Testis by Clathrin/Actin‐Mediated Endocytic Structures: Tubulobulbar Complexes

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Sertoli cells of the mammalian seminiferous epithelium form unique subcellular actin‐related structures at intercellular junctions. The appearance of these so called “tubulobulbar complexes” (TBCs) precedes both sperm release at the apex of the epithelium and the movement of early spermatogenic cells out of the spermatogonial stem cell niche at the base of the epithelium. TBCs are considered to be part of the mechanism of junction endocytosis by Sertoli cells. The structures contain junction proteins and morphologically identifiable junctions, and are associated with markers of endocytosis. Here we review the current state of knowledge about the structure and function of TBCs. As the complexes form, they morphologically resemble and have the molecular signature of clathrin‐coated pits with extremely long necks. As they mature, the actin filament networks around the “necks” of the structures progressively disassemble and the membrane cores expand or swell into distinct “bulbs”. These bulbs acquire extensive membrane contact sites with associated cisternae of endoplasmic reticulum. Eventually the bulbs undergo scission and continue through endosomal compartments of the Sertoli cells. The morphology and composition of TBC indicates to us that the structures likely evolved from the basic clathrin‐mediated endocytosis mechanism common to cells generally, and along the way they incorporated unique features to accommodate the cyclic turnover of massive and “intact” intercellular junctions that occurs during spermatogenesis. Anat Rec, 301:2080–2085, 2018. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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Keywords: clathrin/actin‐mediated endocytosis; sertoli cells; tubulobulbar complexes

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2018

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