David Fleck, Lina Kenzler, Nadine Mundt, Martin Strauch, Naofumi Uesaka, Robert Moosmann, Felicitas Bruentgens, Annika Missel, Artur Mayerhofer, Dorit Merhof, Jennifer Spehr, Marc Spehr (2021) ATP activation of peritubular cells drives testicular sperm transport. eLife 2021;10:e62885.
Download publication as PDF
Spermatogenesis, the complex process of male germ cell proliferation, differentiation, and maturation, is the basis of male fertility. In the seminiferous tubules of the testes, spermatozoa are constantly generated from spermatogonial stem cells through a stereotyped sequence of mitotic and meiotic divisions. The basic physiological principles, however, that control both maturation and luminal transport of the still immotile spermatozoa within the seminiferous tubules remain poorly, if at all, defined. Here, we show that coordinated contractions of smooth muscle-like testicular peritubular cells provide the propulsive force for luminal sperm transport toward the rete testis. Using a mouse model for in vivo imaging, we describe and quantify spontaneous tubular contractions and show a causal relationship between peritubular Ca2+ waves and peristaltic transport. Moreover, we identify P2 receptor-dependent purinergic signaling pathways as physiological triggers of tubular contractions both in vitro and in vivo. When challenged with extracellular ATP, transport of luminal content inside the seminiferous tubules displays stage-dependent directionality. We thus suggest that paracrine purinergic signaling coordinates peristaltic recurrent contractions of the mouse seminiferous tubules to propel immotile spermatozoa to the rete testis.