Differential responses of epithelial Sertoli cells of the rat testis to Toll-like receptor 2 and 4 ligands: implications for studies of testicular inflammation using bacterial lipopolysaccharides

Innate Immun. 2011 Apr;17(2):123-36. doi: 10.1177/1753425909354764. Epub 2009 Dec 18.


The relative contribution of epithelial Sertoli cells in response to bacterial infection of the testis remains poorly characterised, since studies on inflammatory properties of these cells have invariably used unpurified lipopolysaccharide (LPS) preparations contaminated with bacterial lipopeptides. Consequently, isolated rat Sertoli cells were stimulated with either unextracted or phenol re-extracted LPS, and analysed for Toll-like receptor (TLR) 4, TLR2 and inflammatory cytokine gene expression by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Expression of TLR4 and its co-receptor protein myeloid differentiation (MD) 2 in Sertoli cells and testicular macrophages were similar, but Sertoli cells displayed low basal or LPS-induced expression of the TLR4 accessory protein, CD14. In Sertoli cells, unextracted LPS produced cytokine responses which were considerably greater in magnitude and duration compared with their response to purified LPS. Sertoli cells also responded to the synthetic lipopeptide, Pam(3)Cys (a TLR2 ligand) with a similar pattern of prolonged gene expression. Sertoli cells were more than 10-fold less sensitive to purified LPS than macrophages, but expressed similar levels of interleukin (IL)-1α and IL-6, and much greater levels of the immunoregulatory cytokine activin A, when maximally stimulated. These data demonstrate that Sertoli cells display differential cytokine responses to bacterial stimuli, mediated by both TLR2 and TLR4, that are distinct from those of testicular macrophages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Lipopeptides / pharmacology
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / genetics
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / metabolism
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Sertoli Cells / drug effects
  • Sertoli Cells / immunology
  • Sertoli Cells / metabolism*
  • Sertoli Cells / pathology
  • Testis / pathology*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / agonists
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / metabolism*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / agonists
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Lipopeptides
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Pam(3)CSK(4) peptide
  • Tlr2 protein, rat
  • Tlr4 protein, rat
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4