Evaluation of blood-testis barrier integrity in terms of adhesion molecules in nonobstructive azoospermia

Andrologia. 2020 Aug;52(7):e13636. doi: 10.1111/and.13636. Epub 2020 May 26.


Blood-testis barrier (BTB) is critical for maintaining fertility. The integrity of tight junctions (TJs) provides restricted permeability of BTB. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relationship between BTB and Sertoli cells. Testicular sperm extraction (TESE) obtained from nonobstructive azoospermia (NOA) patients was examined: Group I (spermatozoa+) and Group II (spermatozoa-). The tissues were stained with haematoxylin eosin, periodic acid-Schiff and Masson's trichrome for Johnsen's score evaluation. Apoptosis and adhesion molecules such as claudin-11, occludin and ZO-1 were assessed. In Group I, the integrity of the seminiferous tubules was intact. In Group II, some seminiferous tubule walls were lined only with Sertoli cells, had a thickening of the basement membrane, and oedema in interstitial spaces. In Group I, the seminiferous tubule consisted of a stratified columnar epithelium, claudin-11 expressions were observed as linear staining in the basal zone of the tubule, while seminiferous tubules, with low epithelium, displayed a punctate type of staining. Immunohistochemical observations were consistent with the ultrastructural findings. In Group II, high apoptosis and unstained/irregular TJ formation in claudin-11, occludin and ZO-1 were observed. In conclusion, disruption of relation between BTB and TJs may reveal inadequate spermatogenesis, which is one of the mechanisms behind azoospermia.

Keywords: ZO-1; blood-testis barrier (BTB); claudin-11; occludin; tight junctions (TJs).

MeSH terms

  • Azoospermia*
  • Blood-Testis Barrier*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Seminiferous Tubules
  • Sertoli Cells
  • Spermatogenesis
  • Tight Junctions