Our laboratory is interested understanding the role of cell-cell interaction in the epididymis, their importance in creating a luminal environment suitable for sperm maturation, and the effects of environmental toxicants on these.
Regulation on intercellular communication. Gap junctions are essential structural components that allow direct communication between neighboring cells. Gap junctional communication is therefore critical for coordinating cellular function within complex epithelia. In the male reproductive tract, gap junctional communication is essential for the exchange of cellular messengers necessary for spermatogenesis in the testis and for the coordination of sperm maturation in the epididymis. A crucial aspect of sperm maturation is the fact that the epididymal epithelium must coordinate the different regions of epididymis in order to modify the luminal environment necessary for sperm maturation. Our objectives are to understand the role and regulation of gap junctional communication in the epididymis and its role in sperm maturation.
Epididymal tight junctions and the blood-epididymal barrier. The creation and maintenance of microenvironments within biological systems are crucial for the development and function of specialized cells within complex organisms. These microenvironments are created by tight junctions between cells which form an impenetrable seal, thereby forcing receptor mediated transport across cells and creating specific environments. These cellular barriers exist in the brain, retina, thymus, intestine, and kidney, as well as in male reproductive tissues such as the testis and epididymis. Understanding the regulation of proteins responsible for the maintenance of these barriers is necessary, as tight junctions undergo rapid alterations in diseases such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, renal diseases, asthma, cystic fibrosis and breast cancer. In male reproductive tissues, the microenvironments formed by tight junctions are essential for spermatogenesis in the testis and for sperm maturation in the epididymis. While unexplained male infertility results from multiple causes, studies in rats have shown that infertility in ageing males is accompanied by a loss of tight junctions in the epididymis. Given the crucial nature of tight junctions in both normal physiological processes and in widespread pathologies, including male infertility, our objective is to understand the factors regulating the formation of the tight junctions responsible for the formation of the blood-epididymal barrier, a key determinant of male fertility