D. Chevallier, D. Carette, J. Gilleron, D. Segretain and G. Pointis Pages 1331 - 1344 ( 14 )
Direct intercellular communication is mediated by gap junctions and their constitutive proteins, the connexins, which are organized in a hexameric arrangement forming a channel between adjacent cells. Connexins are essential for cell homeostasis and are also involved in many physiological processes such as cell growth, differentiation and death. Spermatogenesis is a sophisticated model of germ cell proliferation, differentiation, survival and apoptosis, in which one connexin isoform, connexin 43, plays an essential role as evidenced by the targeted genetic deletion of Cx43 gene. A controlled balance of germ cell growth is a prerequisite to maintain either normal level of spermatozoa necessary for fertility and/or to limit an uncontrolled and anarchic germ cell proliferation, a major risk for germ cell tumor cell development. In the present review, we highlight the emerging role of connexins in testis pathogenesis, specifically in two intimately interconnected human testicular diseases: azoospermia with impaired spermatogenesis and testicular germ cell tumors, whose incidence increased during the last decades. This review proposes the gap junction protein connexin 43 as a new potential cancer diagnostic and prognostic marker, as well as a promising therapeutic target for testicular diseases.
Connexin 43, gap junction, pathogenesis, subfertility, testicular germ cell tumors.
INSERM U 1065, C3M, 151 route Saint-Antoine de Ginestière, BP 2 3194, 06204 Nice cedex 3, France.