Ethanol-induced autophagy in sertoli cells is specifically marked at androgen-dependent stages of the spermatogenic cycle: Potential mechanisms and implications

Akio Horibe, Nabil Eid, Yuko Ito, Yoshinori Otsuki, Yoichi Kondo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


In a recent study, we reported that acute ethanol exposure enhanced autophagy in Sertoli cells (SCs) of adult rats. However, further research is needed to clarify the specific spermatogenic stage exhibiting the highest autophagic response, the mechanisms behind such specificity, and the related relevance to sperm. This brief report provides results indicating that stages VII–VIII (androgen-dependent or spermiation stages) of the spermatogenic cycle exhibited more marked autophagic response in acute-ethanol treated rats (ETRs) than other stages based on suppression of androgen receptor (AR), analysis of microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3) (an autophagosomal marker) immunostaining in SCs, double labeling of LC3 and lysosomal proteins and electron microscopy. Ultrastructural observations and TUNEL method revealed a notable presence of phagocytosed apoptotic germ cells and retained sperm in SCs of ETRs at these specific stages—a finding rarely observed in control testes. In addition, PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 ( PINK1) (a sensor of mitochondrial damage and mitophagy) and giant lipid droplets were found to have accumulated in SCs of ETRs at same stages. Our data show novel findings indicating that stages VII–VIII of the spermatogenic cycle exhibit high levels of autophagy, specifically under stress conditions, as expressed by the term autophagic stages. This stage-specific upregulation of autophagy in SCs may be related to AR suppression, mitochondrial damage, lipid accumulation, and phagocytosis of apoptotic cells. The phenomenon may be an essential part of ensuring the viability of SCs and supporting germ cells in toxic environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number184
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Androgen receptor
  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy
  • Ethanol
  • Infertility
  • LAP
  • LC3
  • Lipophagy
  • Mitophagy
  • PINK1
  • Sertoli
  • Sperm retention
  • Spermatogenic cycle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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