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S M Maguire, M R Millar, R M Sharpe, J Gaughan, and P T K Saunders


Iron is required for the normal development of germ cells during spermatogenesis. Because these cells have no direct access to systemic iron, there exists a shuttle system involving production and secretion of the iron-transporting protein transferrin by the Sertoli cells. Previous reports using cultures of immature Sertoli cells exposed to adult germ cells, or in vivo studies involving germ cell-depleted adult rat testes, concluded that production of transferrin by Sertoli cells is modulated by germ cell complement.

In the present study we have used in situ hybridisation with cRNA probes directed against the 5′ and 3′ ends of transferrin mRNA to examine the pattern of expression of transferrin in the immature and adult rat testis. Adult rats were treated with ethane dimethane sulphonate or methoxyacetic acid (MAA) to manipulate their testosterone levels or germ cell complement respectively. Initial findings obtained using the 3′ probe showed a decrease in transferrin mRNA associated with round spermatid depletion. However, these data were not confirmed by in situ hybridisation when the 5′ probe was used. The specificity of the probes was examined using Northern blotting and the 3′ probe was found to hybridise to the germ cell transcript for hemiferrin even under conditions of high stringency. Examination of immature and pubertal rat testes by in situ hybridisation using the 5′ transferrin-specific probe found that as early as 14 days of age the level of expression of transferrin mRNA was clearly different between tubules, and the mRNA appeared to be expressed in Leydig cells on and after day 31. In the adult rat testis, maximal expression of transferrin mRNA was found at stages VIII-XIV, calling into question the interpretation of the results of some previous studies showing expression of transferrin mRNA at all stages of the spermatogenic cycle. This stage-specific pattern of expression was not altered by acute germ cell depletion using MAA. However, Northern blot analysis showed a statistically significant increase in transferrin mRNA expression at 7 days after MAA treatment when pachytene spermatocytes were depleted from tubules at all stages of the spermatogenic cycle at which transferrin is normally expressed.

In conclusion, we found that transferrin mRNA expression was not modulated by round spermatids as has been reported previously but that meiotic germ cells may influence expression of transferrin at specific stages of the spermatogenic cycle.

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W.-X. Wu, J. Brooks, M. R. Millar, W. L. Ledger, P. T. K. Saunders, A. F. Glasier, and A. S. McNeilly


While the fetal pituitary synthesizes and releases prolactin, it is also produced within the utero-placental unit during pregnancy in women and has been localized in the amnion, chorion and decidua. However, it is not clear whether prolactin is synthesized within all these non-fetal pituitary tissues. We have investigated prolactin production and its gene expression using tissue culture, immunocytochemistry and in-situ hybridization techniques. Prolactin was immunolocalized not only in the decidua but also in amnion and trophoblast cells. In contrast, the in-situ hybridization results showed that silver grains, formed by specific hybridization of a prolactin cDNA probe to prolactin mRNA, were confined to decidual cells of early and term pregnancy. The results from tissue cultures correlated well with those of in-situ hybridization, that is that only the decidua made detectable prolactin, while it was undetectable in the culture medium from trophoblast tissue, irrespective of the stage of pregnancy. This study, for the first time, establishes that only decidualized cells are involved in biosynthesis of prolactin; other prolactin-containing cells in the amnion and trophoblast appear to sequester prolactin, possibly via receptors, suggesting that prolactin may play an important paracrine role within the amnion and syncitio- and cytotrophoblast of the utero-placental unit.