The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology vol:41 issue:3-8 pages:487-94
Androgen-regulated mesenchymal-epithelial interactions play an important role during embryonic development of the male urogenital tractus. Studies on the effects of androgens on cultured testicular cells derived from the immature rat testis indicate that, even during postnatal life, similar interactions may be instrumental for normal androgen action. Androgen receptors are found in epithelial Sertoli cells as well as in mesenchymal peritubular cells. The effects of androgens on isolated Sertoli cells, however, are limited. Coculture with peritubular cells increases the sensitivity and/or the responsiveness of a number of Sertoli cell parameters (transferrin, ABP, aromatase activity) to androgens. This effect is at least in part mediated by the secretion of one or more diffusible factors (P-Mod-S) by the peritubular cells. We investigated whether such indirect effects of androgens, relying on mesenchymal-epithelial interactions are also observed in other androgen target tissues. To this end stromal cells were isolated and cultured from the immature rat ventral prostate and the production of factors with P-Mod-S activity was monitored using Sertoli cells as the test system. Under coculture conditions these stromal cells stimulate Sertoli cell transferrin secretion in an androgen-regulated fashion, exactly as peritubular cells. This stimulatory effect is related in part to the collaborative (and androgen-independent) deposition of an extracellular matrix and in part to the secretion of an androgen-regulated diffusible mediator. This mediator has the same physicochemical characteristics as P-Mod-S and it affects other Sertoli cell parameters (ABP, aromatase activity, inhibin, cGMP) in the same way as P-Mod-S. Cultured stromal and peritubular cells look very similar and stain positive after immunostaining for alpha-smooth muscle isoactin. Tissue sections suggest that these cells may be derived from myoid peritubular cells in the testis and similar periacinar cells in the prostate. The hypothesis is advanced that P-Mod-S may be a more universal mediator of indirect effects of androgens in diverse target tissues and that this factor is derived from myoid cells closely associated with the epithelial component.