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Gerard A Tarulli Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, PO Box 5152, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia
Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, PO Box 5152, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia

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Sarah J Meachem Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, PO Box 5152, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia
Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, PO Box 5152, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia

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Stefan Schlatt Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, PO Box 5152, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia

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Peter G Stanton Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, PO Box 5152, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia

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This study aimed to assess the effect of gonadotrophin suppression and FSH replacement on testicular tight junction dynamics and blood–testis barrier (BTB) organisation in vivo, utilising the seasonal breeding Djungarian hamster. Confocal immunohistology was used to assess the cellular organisation of tight junction proteins and real-time PCR to quantify tight junction mRNA. The effect of tight junction protein organisation on the BTB permeability was also investigated using a biotin-linked tracer. Tight junction protein (claudin-3, junctional adhesion molecule (JAM)-A and occludin) localisation was present but disorganised after gonadotrophin suppression, while mRNA levels (claudin-11, claudin-3 and occludin) were significantly (two- to threefold) increased. By contrast, both protein localisation and mRNA levels for the adaptor protein zona occludens-1 decreased after gonadotrophin suppression. FSH replacement induced a rapid reorganisation of tight junction protein localisation. The functionality of the BTB (as inferred by biotin tracer permeation) was found to be strongly associated with the organisation and localisation of claudin-11. Surprisingly, JAM-A was also recognised on spermatogonia, suggesting an additional novel role for this protein in trans-epithelial migration of germ cells across the BTB. It is concluded that gonadotrophin regulation of tight junction proteins forming the BTB occurs primarily at the level of protein organisation and not gene transcription in this species, and that immunolocalisation of the organised tight junction protein claudin-11 correlates with BTB functionality.

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Teruhito Ishihara School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Oliver W Griffith School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Gerard A Tarulli School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Marilyn B Renfree School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Male germ cells undergo two consecutive processes – pre-spermatogenesis and spermatogenesis – to generate mature sperm. In eutherian mammals, epigenetic information such as DNA methylation is dynamically reprogrammed during pre-spermatogenesis, before and during mitotic arrest. In mice, by the time germ cells resume mitosis, the majority of DNA methylation is reprogrammed. The tammar wallaby has a similar pattern of germ cell global DNA methylation reprogramming to that of the mouse during early pre-spermatogenesis. However, early male germline development in the tammar or in any marsupial has not been described previously, so it is unknown whether this is a general feature regulating male germline development or a more recent phenomenon in mammalian evolutionary history. To answer this, we examined germ cell nuclear morphology and mitotic arrest during male germline development in the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), a marsupial that diverged from mice and humans around 160 million years ago. Tammar pro-spermatogonia proliferated after birth and entered mitotic arrest after day 30 postpartum (pp). At this time, they began moving towards the periphery of the testis cords and their nuclear size increased. Germ cells increased in number after day 100 pp which is the time that DNA methylation is known to be re-established in the tammar. This is similar to the pattern observed in the mouse, suggesting that resumption of germ cell mitosis and the timing of DNA methylation reprogramming are correlated and conserved across mammals and over long evolutionary timescales.

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Yu Chen School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Jaiden Lay School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Geoffrey Shaw School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Gerard A Tarulli School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Marilyn B Renfree School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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In brief

Atrazine, like oestrogen, disorganises laminin formation and reduces the number of germ cells and Sertoli cells in the developing testes of the tammar wallaby. This study suggests that interfering with the balance of androgen and oestrogen affects the integrity of laminin structure and testis differentiation.

Abstract

The herbicide atrazine was banned in Europe in 2003 due to its endocrine disrupting activity but remains widely used. The integrity of the laminin structure in fetal testis cords requires oestrogen signalling but overexposure to xenoestrogens in the adult can cause testicular dysgenesis. However, whether xenoestrogens affect laminin formation in developing testes has not been investigated. Here we examined the effects of atrazine in the marsupial tammar wallaby during early development and compare it with the effects of the anti-androgen flutamide, oestrogen, and the oestrogen degrader fulvestrant. The tammar, like all marsupials, gives birth to altricial young, allowing direct treatment of the developing young during the male programming window (day 20–40 post partum (pp)). Male pouch young were treated orally with atrazine (5 mg/kg), flutamide (10 mg/kg), 17β-oestradiol (2.5 mg/kg) and fulvestrant (1 mg/kg) daily from day 20 to 40 pp. Distribution of laminin, vimentin, SOX9 and DDX4, cell proliferation and mRNA expression of SRY, SOX9, AMH, and SF1 were examined in testes at day 50 post partum after the treatment. Direct exposure to atrazine, flutamide, 17β-oestradiol, and fulvestrant all disorganised laminin but had no effect on vimentin distribution in testes. Atrazine reduced the number of germ cells and Sertoli cells when examined at day 40–50 pp and day 20 to 40 pp, respectively. Both flutamide and fulvestrant reduced the number of germ cells and Sertoli cells. Atrazine also downregulated SRY expression and impaired SOX9 nuclear translocation. Our results demonstrate that atrazine can compromise normal testicular differentiation during the critical male programming window.

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