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Valeria Merico, Gabriela Diaz de Barboza, Chiara Vasco, Ruben Ponce, Valeria Rodriguez, Silvia Garagna and Nori Tolosa de Talamoni

The aim of this study was to determine whether the intrinsic mechanism of apoptosis is involved in the death of germ cells in Robertsonian (Rb) heterozygous adult male mice. Testes from 5-month-old Rb heterozygous CD1×Milano II mice were obtained and compared with those from homozygous CD1 (2n=40) and Milano II (2n=24) mice. For histological evaluation of apoptosis, TUNEL labelling and immunohistochemistry were used to localise Bax and cytochrome c. Expression of calbindin D28k (CB), an anti-apoptotic molecule, was also analysed by immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting. Testicular ultrastructure was visualised by electron microscopy. Morphology and cell associations were abnormal in the Rb heterozygous seminiferous epithelium. An intense apoptotic process was observed in tubules at stage XII, mainly in metaphase spermatocytes. Metaphase spermatocytes also showed Bax and cytochrome c redistributions. Mitochondria relocated close to the paranuclear region of spermatocytes. CB was mainly expressed in metaphase spermatocytes, but also in pachytene spermatocytes, spermatids and Sertoli cells at stage XII. The co-localisation of CB and TUNEL labelling was very limited. Sixty per cent of metaphase spermatocytes were apoptotic and calbindin negative, while 40% were calbindin positive without signs of apoptosis. Ten per cent of the Bax- and cytochrome c-positive cells were also calbindin positive. These data suggest that apoptosis of the germ cells in heterozygous mice occurs, at least in part, through a mitochondrial-dependent mechanism. Calbindin overexpression might prevent or reduce the apoptosis of germ cells caused by Rb heterozygosity, which could partially explain the subfertility of these mice.

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Valeria Merico, Juan Pablo Luaces, Luis Francisco Rossi, Paola Rebuzzini, Maria Susana Merani, Maurizio Zuccotti and Silvia Garagna

In nature, mammalian seasonal breeders undergo spermatogenetic arrest during the non-breeding season. In the large hairy armadillo Chaetophractus villosus, testis regression initiates with immature post-meiotic germ cells sloughing into the tubule lumen and continues with the death of the remaining spermatocytes. At the end of the regression period, only spermatogonia and Sertoli cells persist in the seminiferous epithelium. It has been suggested that cell sloughing is determined by changes in the adhesion complexes between Sertoli cells and spermatids, which are mediated by low intra-testicular testosterone levels. By immunofluorescence and Western blotting we studied key proteins of the N-cadherin/N-cadherin and A6B1-integrin/laminin interlocks that contribute to the complex Sertoli/spermatid adhesion system throughout the eight stages of the seminiferous epithelium cycle in the comparison between active and regressing testes. In active testis, B1-integrin, laminin G3, N-cadherin, B-catenin, P-B-catenin-Tyr654, FAK, P-FAK-Tyr397, SRC, P-SRC-Tyr416 proteins present a spermatogenetic cycle-dependent localisation pattern, unmaintained in regressing testes. In the latter, quantitative variations and changes in the phosphorylation state of protein FAK, SRC and B-catenin contribute to the disassembly of the N-cadherin/N-cadherin and A6B1-integrin/laminin interlocks, thus promoting the massive release of immature spermatids.