Purpose: We investigated Sertoli cells in testicular biopsies with carcinoma in situ (CIS) in respect to cytokeratin expression to elucidate the status of Sertoli cell differentiation adjacent to CIS in human testes. Cytokeratin 18 intermediate filaments indicate a state of undifferentiation usually observed in Sertoli cells of prepubertal testes.
Materials and methods: 29 testicular biopsies presenting CIS were investigated by means of immunohistochemistry, using a polyclonal antibody against placental-alkaline phosphatase to detect CIS cells and a monoclonal antibody against human cytokeratin 18 to show expression of cytokeratin 18 intermediate filaments in Sertoli cells.
Results: All tubules bearing CIS showed positive cytokeratin expression of Sertoli cells if tubules were devoid of normal germ cells. However, a total of 13 specimen revealed CIS cells together with normal germ cells. In the presence of CIS cells together with round or elongated spermatids, adjacent Sertoli cells did not express cytokeratin immunoreactivity. In the case of combined presence of CIS and spermatogonia and primary spermatocytes, Sertoli cells could be found either immunopositive or immunonegative, and were positive in tubules with CIS and spermatogonia only.
Conclusions: Sertoli cells associated with CIS cells undergo a process of dedifferentiation, seen by the re-expression of cytokeratin intermediate filaments. We suggest that this dedifferentiation results in a loss of Sertoli cell function and leads to a cessation of spermatogenic activity.