Endocrinology . 2015 Nov;156(11):4244-56. doi: 10.1210/en.2015-1217. Epub 2015 Sep 11.

Rictor Regulates Spermatogenesis by Controlling Sertoli Cell Cytoskeletal Organization and Cell Polarity in the Mouse Testis

Heling Dong  1 Zhenguo Chen  1 Caixia Wang  1 Zhi Xiong  1 Wanlu Zhao  1 Chunhong Jia  1 Jun Lin  1 Yan Lin  1 Weiping Yuan  1 Allan Z Zhao  1 Xiaochun Bai  1


  • 1 State Key Laboratory of Organ Failure Research (H.D., Z.C., C.W., Z.X., W.Z., C.J., J.L., X.B.), Department of Cell Biology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou 510515, China; State Key Laboratory of Reproductive Medicine (L.Y., A.Z.Z.), The Center of Metabolic Disease Research, Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province 210029, China; and State Key Laboratory of Experimental Hematology (W.Y.), Institute of Hematology; and Blood Diseases Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, Tianjin 300020, China.


Maintenance of cell polarity is essential for Sertoli cell and blood-testis barrier (BTB) function and spermatogenesis; however, the signaling mechanisms that regulate the integrity of the cytoskeleton and polarity of Sertoli cells are not fully understood. Here, we demonstrate that rapamycin-insensitive component of target of rapamycin (TOR) (Rictor), a core component of mechanistic TOR complex 2 (mTORC2), was expressed in the seminiferous epithelium during testicular development, and was down-regulated in a cadmium chloride-induced BTB damage model. We then conditionally deleted the Rictor gene in Sertoli cells and mutant mice exhibited azoospermia and were sterile as early as 3 months old. Further study revealed that Rictor may regulate actin organization via both mTORC2-dependent and mTORC2-independent mechanisms, in which the small GTPase, ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1, and phosphorylation of the actin filament regulatory protein, Paxillin, are involved, respectively. Loss of Rictor in Sertoli cells perturbed actin dynamics and caused microtubule disarrangement, both of which accumulatively disrupted Sertoli cell polarity and BTB integrity, accompanied by testicular developmental defects, spermiogenic arrest and excessive germ cell loss in mutant mice. Together, these findings establish the importance of Rictor/mTORC2 signaling in Sertoli cell function and spermatogenesis through the maintenance of Sertoli cell cytoskeletal dynamics, BTB integrity, and cell polarity.