Hexavalent chromium at low concentration alters Sertoli cell barrier and connexin 43 gap junction but not claudin-11 and N-cadherin in the rat seminiferous tubule culture model


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Abstract

Exposure to toxic metals, specifically those belonging to the nonessential group leads to human health defects and among them reprotoxic effects. The mechanisms by which these metals produce their negative effects on spermatogenesis have not been fully elucidated. By using the Durand's validated seminiferous tubule culture model, which mimics the in vivo situation, we recently reported that concentrations of hexavalent chromium, reported in the literature to be closed to that found in the blood circulation of men, increase the number of germ cell cytogenetic abnormalities. Since this metal is also known to affect cellular junctions, we investigated, in the present study, its potential influence on the Sertoli cell barrier and on junctional proteins present at this level such as connexin 43, claudin-11 and N-cadherin. Cultured seminiferous tubules in bicameral chambers expressed the three junctional proteins and ZO-1 for at least 12 days. Exposure to low concentrations of chromium (10 μg/l) increased the trans-epithelial resistance without major changes of claudin-11 and N-cadherin expressions but strongly delocalized the gap junction protein connexin 43 from the membrane to the cytoplasm of Sertoli cells. The possibility that the hexavalent chromium-induced alteration of connexin 43 indirectly mediates the effect of the toxic metal on the blood–testis barrier dynamic is postulated.Highlights▸ Influence of Cr(VI) on the Sertoli cell barrier and on junctional proteins ▸ Use of cultured seminiferous tubules in bicameral chambers ▸ Low concentrations of Cr(VI) (10 μg/l) altered the trans-epithelial resistance. ▸ Cr(VI) did not alter claudin-11 and N-cadherin. ▸ Cr(VI) delocalized connexin 43 from the membrane to the cytoplasm of Sertoli cells.

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