Claudine are integral membrane proteins at tight junctions (TJs) and form TJ strands. In the present study, we found that claudin-7 was localized along the entire lateral membranes of epididymal epithelium, including the apical junctional region throughout the epididymis, but claudin-8 was restricted to the apical junctional region. This finding raises the possibility that aberrant TJ strands may be formed on lateral membranes. Thus, we focused on examining whether TJ strands exist on lateral membranes of epididymal epithelium. Freeze-fracture electron microscopy showed that aberrant TJ strands were observed in only a few principal cells in all segments of the epididymis except for the initial segment, indicating that the occurrence of aberrant strands is very rare. Aberrant TJ strands were smooth and not subdivided into individual particles in the protoplasmic face, and complementary grooves in the extracellular face were almost free of particles. Aberrant TJ strands in the distal caput and corpus epididymis were accompanied by many vesicle-like structures but those in the proximal caput and cauda epididymis were not. These results suggest that most of claudin-7 in lateral membranes may exist in a non-polymerized form and may play some different roles other than the formation of TJ strands, for example, in the formation of a pool of claudin proteins or in the reinforcement of cell adhesion.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics