Differential expression and localisation of TGF-β isoforms and receptors in the murine epididymis

Sci Rep. 2020 Jan 22;10(1):995. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-57839-5.


Testes produce spermatozoa that transit through and are stored in the epididymis where they acquire their fertilising capacities. Spermatozoa appear in the genital tract at puberty, long after the immune system was trained to self-antigens. As a consequence, this organ has to set strategies to tolerate sperm antigens to avoid autoimmune responses that would specifically target and destroy them. A recent study pointed the Transforming Growth Factor-beta (TGF-β) signalling in the dendritic cells as a crucial mechanism for epididymal tolerance to spermatozoa. In the mouse, TGF-β exists under three isoforms, and three distinct receptors have been described. Using RT-qPCR, immunohistochemistry and ELISA techniques, we investigated the expression and spatial distribution of the epididymal TGF-β isoforms and of their receptors in young and adult mice. We showed that both ligands and receptors were produced by immune and non-immune cells in the epididymis, whatever the age mice have. These data bring new clues as to the mechanisms of peripheral tolerance to sperm cells in the murine epididymis and raise potential other implications of the cytokine isoforms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epididymis / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism
  • Testis / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism*


  • Protein Isoforms
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta