We have examined the adhesion of primary Sertoli cells to a seminiferous tubule basement membrane (STBM) preparation in vitro. The STBM isolation procedure (Watanabe, T.K., L.J. Hansen, N.K. Reddy, Y.S. Kanwar, and J.K. Reddy, 1984, Cancer Res., 44:5361-5368) yields segments of STBM that retain their histotypic form in both three-dimensional tubular geometry and ultrastructural appearance. The STBM sleeves contain two laminae: a thick, inner basal lamina that was formed in vivo between Sertoli cells and peritubular myoid cells; and a thinner, outer basal lamina that was formed between myoid cells and sinusoidal endothelial cells. Characterization by immunofluorescence and SDS PAGE revealed that the isolated STBM retained fibronectin, laminin, and putative type IV collagen among its many components. When the STBM sleeves were gently shaken with an enriched fraction of primary Sertoli cells, the Sertoli cells bound preferentially to the lumenal basal lamina at the ends of the STBM sleeves. Few Sertoli cells bound to either the outer basal lamina of the STBM sleeves or to vascular extracellular matrix material which contaminated the STBM preparation. 3T3 cells, in contrast, bound to all surfaces of the STBM sleeves. Pretreatment of the STBM sleeves with proteases, 0.1 M Na metaperiodate, 4 M guanidine HCl, or heating to 80 degrees-90 degrees C inhibited lumenal Sertoli cell binding, but binding was not inhibited by chondroitinase ABC, heparinase, hyaluronidase, or 4 M NaCl. The lumenal Sertoli cell binding occurred in the presence or absence of added soluble laminin, but not fibronectin. The addition of soluble laminin, but not fibronectin, restored random binding of Sertoli cells to trypsinized STBM sleeves. Our in vitro model system indicates that Sertoli cells recognize differences in two basal laminae produced in vivo on either side of myoid cells.

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