The blood-testis barrier (BTB) is formed by tight junctions between Sertoli cells. Results of previous studies suggested that the barrier is deficient in ets variant 5 (ETV5) gene-deleted mice; therefore, microarray data were examined for changes in tight junction-associated genes. The tight junctional protein claudin 5 (CLDN5) was decreased in testes of 8-day-old Etv5−/− pups. The study reported herein examined the expression of CLDN5 in wild-type (WT) and Etv5−/− mice and evaluated its contribution to BTB function. CLDN5 protein expression was evaluated in 8-day-old WT and Etv5−/− and adult WT, Etv5−/−, and W/Wv testes by immunohistochemistry and in 8-day-old WT Sertoli cell-enriched and germ cell-enriched fractions by immunocytochemistry. Cldn5 mRNA expression was evaluated in 0- to 20-day-old and adult WT mice and in 8-day-old and adult Etv5−/− mice via quantitative PCR. Tracer studies were performed in adult WT, Etv5−/−, and W/Wv mice. The results indicate the following: 1) CLDN5 was expressed in Sertoli cells, spermatogonia, and preleptotene spermatocytes. 2) Seminiferous epithelial CLDN5 expression depended upon both the presence of germ cells and ETV5. 3) CLDN5 expression in testicular vascular endothelium and rete testis epithelium was ETV5 independent. 4) Cldn5 mRNA expression increased in the testes of juvenile mice at the time of BTB formation. 5) Testes of Etv5−/− and W/Wv mice, which are both deficient in seminiferous epithelial CLDN5 expression, had biotin tracer leakage from the interstitial space into the seminiferous tubule lumen. In conclusion, CLDN5 is expressed in the seminiferous epithelium, appears to be regulated by multiple influences, and contributes to BTB function.
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Vol. 81 • No. 5