Localization of tumor necrosis factor in the canine testis, epididymis and spermatozoa

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Tumor necrosis factor (TNF), formerly known as Tumor necrosis factor alpha is now regarded as a natural component of the mammalian seminal plasma (SP). Although not completely clarified, its functions in the SP have been associated with paradoxal roles, such as sperm survival in the female genital tract, while at high levels negatively affect sperm survival and fertility potential. Recently, it has been discovered that canine inseminated spermatozoa display a strong immunoreaction for TNF when lining the female endometrium. As a continuation of this finding, the present work aimed at documenting TNF localization in the canine testes and epididymis and in freshly ejaculated spermatozoa (SPZ) through immunohisto- or cytochemistry. Immunoreaction for TNF was found in all samples used. In the dog testis, TNF immunoexpression was limited to the seminiferous tubules, where late round spermatids (SPD) showed weak intensity of immunostaining, while elongating and elongated SPD evidenced moderate and the residual bodies a strong intensity. In the epididymis, a gradual progressive increase of TNF immunolabelling was found throughout the epididymal regions, ranging from a weak intensity at the caput epididymis to a moderate intensity at the cauda. TNF immunolabelling was found in mature SPZ during the epididymal transit and also in freshly ejaculated SPZ, which showed a strong midpiece immunolabelling. Data presented here provide important information on expression of TNF in spermatozoa, which is acquired by the SPZ during their formation at the testis. It further provides the basis for subsequent studies on the physiological importance of cytokines in sperm function.