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, 30 (1), 54-66

Structure and Turnover of Junctional Complexes Between Principal Cells of the Rat Epididymis


Structure and Turnover of Junctional Complexes Between Principal Cells of the Rat Epididymis

D G Cyr et al. Microsc Res Tech.


The epididymal junctional complex between adjacent principal cells is composed of apically located gap, adherens and tight junctions. Tight junctions between adjacent epithelial cells lead to the formation of the blood-epididymal barrier. The objectives of this study were to examine the structure of the epididymal junctional complex in the different regions of the epididymis and to review the regulation of epithelial cadherin in the rat epididymis. Changes in the structure of the junctional complex, at the level of the electron microscope, were evident when comparing the initial segment to other regions of the epididymis. In the initial segment, the tight junction spanned a considerable length of the apical plasma membrane but had few desmosomes. In the other regions of the epididymis, the span of merging plasma membranes was considerably reduced, but in these regions, numerous desmosomes were present in the apical region. Several examples of what appeared to be a loss of portions of the plasma membrane of adjacent principal cells were evident along the entire epididymis. Such images as the invagination of a portion of the lateral plasma membrane of one principal cell into another, constriction of the invaginated area and eventual detachment leading to the formation of annular junctions suggest that there is a turnover of plasma membranes. The formation of cellular junctions involves the interactions of cell adhesion proteins followed by the addition of junctional proteins which assemble into tight and gap junctions. Epithelial cadherin (E-Cad), a calcium-dependent cell adhesion protein, was localized to the principal cells of the epididymis. Immunocytochemistry at the level of the electron microscope showed that E-Cad was present between the lateral plasma membranes of adjacent principal cells, both in the region of the junctional complex and in the deeper lying areas. E-Cad was also present in annular junctions located in close proximity to the junctional complex, indicating that these structures were related to the plasma membrane. E-Cad mRNA levels are regulated during postnatal epididymal development. In the caput-corpus epididymidis, E-Cad mRNA concentrations increase to peak at 42 days of age. This is well correlated with the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone in the epididymis. In the cauda epididymidis, however, E-Cad mRNA concentrations do not increase as a function of age, indicating that this protein is regulated in a segment-specific manner.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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