The permeability of Sertoli cell tight junctions to lanthanum administered during fixation has been compared in rats after ligation of the ductus deferens and after ligation of the ductuli efferentes. In both control and vasoligated testes, lanthanum penetrated only short distances into the Sertoli cell tight junctions before stopping abruptly. The tight junction, consisting of numerous pentalaminar fusions of contiguous Sertoli cell membranes, prevented diffusion of lanthanum into the adluminal compartment of the seminiferous epithelium. In rats with ligated ductuli efferentes, lanthanum completely permeated many Sertoli cell tight junctions and occupied intercellular spaces of the adluminal compartment. In spite of their newly acquired permeability to lanthanum, tight junctions retained characteristic ultrastructural features, including numerous membrane fusions. When lanthanum-filled tight junctions were sectioned en face, membrane fusions appeared as pale lines in lakes of electron-opaque tracer. These linearly extensive fasciae occludentes occasionally ended blindly, suggesting that lanthanum may have traversed the junction by diffusing around such incomplete barriers. The increased permeability of Sertoli cell tight junctions after efferent ductule ligation, which caused rapid testicular weight gain followed by atrophy, indicates that tight junctions are sensitive to enforced retention of testicular secretions inside the seminiferous tubules. The apparent normalcy of Sertoli cell tight junctions after vasoligation, which had no effect on testis weight, supports the view that blockage of testicular secretions distal to the epididymis is relatively innocuous.

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