Comparative analysis of activins A and B in the adult mouse epididymis and vas deferens
Activin A regulates testicular and epididymal development, but the role of activin B in the epididymis and vas deferens is unknown. Mouse models with reduced activin A (Inhba+/– and InhbaBK/+), or its complete absence (InhbaBK/BK), were investigated to identify specific roles of activins in the male reproductive tract. In 8-week-old Inhba+/– mice, serum activin A decreased by 70%, with a 50% reduction of gene expression and protein in the testis, epididymis and vas deferens. Activin B and the activin-binding protein, follistatin, were similar to wild-type. Testis weights were slightly reduced in Inhba+/– mice, but the epididymis and vas deferens were normal, while the mice were fertile. Activin A was decreased by 70% in the serum, testis, epididymis and vas deferens of InhbaBK/+ mice and was undetectable in InhbaBK/BK mice, but activin B and follistatin levels were similar to wild-type. In 6-week-old InhbaBK/BK mice, testis weights were 60% lower and epididymal weights were 50% lower than in either InhbaBK/+ or wild-type mice. The cauda epididymal epithelium showed infoldings and less intra-luminal sperm, similar to 3.5-week-old wild-type mice, but at 8 weeks, no structural differences in the testis or epididymis were noted between InhbaBK/BK and wild-type mice. Thus, Inhbb can compensate for Inhba in regulating epididymal morphology, although testis and epididymal maturation is delayed in mice lacking Inhba. Crucially, reduction or absence of activin A, at least in the presence of normal activin B levels, does not lead to major defects in the adult epididymis or vas deferens.
Source: The journal of Reproductive Science