We examined the synthesis and deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) components in cultures of Sertoli cells and testicular peritubular cells maintained alone or in contact with each other. Levels of soluble ECM components produced by populations of isolated Sertoli cells and testicular peritubular cells were determined quantitatively by competitive enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assays, using antibodies shown to react specifically with Type I collagen, Type IV collagen, laminin, or fibronectin. Peritubular cells in monoculture released into the medium fibronectin (432 to 560 ng/microgram cell DNA per 48 h), Type I collagen (223 to 276 ng/microgram cell DNA per 48 h), and Type IV collagen (350 to 436 ng/microgram cell DNA per 48 h) during the initial six days of culture in serum-free medium. In contrast, Sertoli cells in monoculture released into the medium Type IV collagen (322 to 419 ng/microgram cell DNA per 48 h) but did not form detectable amounts of Type I collagen or fibronectin during the initial six days of culture. Neither cell type produced detectable quantities of soluble laminin. Immunocytochemical localization investigations demonstrated that peritubular cells in monoculture were positive for fibronectin, Type I collagen, and Type IV collagen but negative for laminin. In all monocultures most of the ECM components were intracellular, with scant deposition as extracellular fibrils. Sertoli cells were positive immunocytochemically for Type IV collagen and laminin but negative for fibronectin and Type I collagen. Co-cultures of peritubular cells and Sertoli cells resulted in interactions that quantitatively altered levels of soluble ECM components present in the medium. This was correlated with an increased deposition of ECM components in extracellular fibrils. The data correlated with an increased deposition of ECM components in extracellular fibrils. The data presented here we interpret to indicate that the two cell types in co-culture act cooperatively in the formation and deposition of ECM components. Results are discussed with respect to the nature of interactions between mesenchymal peritubular cell precursors and adjacent epithelial Sertoli cell precursors in the formation of the basal lamina of the seminiferous tubule.

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