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Upregulation and nuclear translocation of testicular ghrelin protects differentiating spermatogonia from ionizing radiation injury.

  • Li, W
  • Zeng, Y
  • Zhao, J
  • Zhu, C-J
  • Hou, W-G
  • Zhang, S
Published Article
Cell Death and Disease
Springer Nature
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2014
DOI: 10.1038/cddis.2014.223
PMID: 24853426


Proper control of apoptotic signaling is important for maintenance of testicular homeostasis after ionizing radiation (IR). Herein, we challenged the hypothesis that ghrelin, a pleiotropic modulator, is potentially involved in IR-induced germ cell injury. Lower body exposure to 2 Gy of IR induced a notable increase of ghrelin expression in the nuclear of differentiating spermatogonia at defined stages, with an impairment in the Leydig cells (LCs)-expressing ghrelin. Unexpectedly, inhibition of the ghrelin pathway by intraperitoneal injection of a specific GHS-R1α antagonist enhanced spermatogonia elimination by apoptosis during the early recovery following IR, and thereafter resulted in impaired male fertility, suggesting that the anti-apoptotic effects of evoked ghrelin, although transient along testicular IR injury, have a profound influence on the post-injury recovery. In addition, inhibition of ghrelin signaling resulted in a significant increase in the intratesticular testosterone (T) level at the end of 21 days after IR, which should stimulate the spermatogenic recovery from surviving spermatogonia to a certain extent during the late stage. We further demonstrated that the upregulation and nuclear trafficking of ghrelin, elaborately regulated by IR-elicited antioxidant system in spermatogonia, may act through a p53-dependent mechanism. The elicitation of ghrelin expression by IR stress, the regulation of ghrelin expression by IR-induced oxidative stress and the interaction between p53 and ghrelin signaling during IR injury were confirmed in cultured spermatogonia. Hence, our results represent the first evidence in support of a radioprotective role of ghrelin in the differentiating spermatogonia. The acutely, delicate regulation of local-produced ghrelin appears to be a fine-tune mechanism modulating the balance between testicular homeostasis and early IR injury.

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