Autophagy is required for ectoplasmic specialization assembly in sertoli cells

The ectoplasmic specialization (ES) is essential for Sertoli-germ cell communication to support all phases of germ cell development and maturity. Its formation and remodeling requires rapid reorganization of the cytoskeleton. However, the molecular mechanism underlying the regulation of ES assembly is still largely unknown. Here, we show that Sertoli cell-specific disruption of autophagy influenced male mouse fertility due to the resulting disorganized seminiferous tubules and spermatozoa with malformed heads. In autophagy-deficient mouse testes, cytoskeleton structures were disordered and ES assembly was disrupted. The disorganization of the cytoskeleton structures might be caused by the accumulation of a negative cytoskeleton organization regulator, PDLIM1, and these defects could be partially rescued by Pdlim1 knockdown in autophagy-deficient Sertoli cells. Altogether, our works reveal that the degradation of PDLIM1 by autophagy in Sertoli cells is important for the proper assembly of the ES, and these findings define a novel role for autophagy in Sertoli cell-germ cell communication.