OBJECTIVE: To study the role of Bcl-2-related ovarian killer (Bok) in the regulation of apoptosis in the testis of developing and adult rat. METHODS: Bok mRNA expression was analyzed by Northern hybridization before and after culturing rat seminiferous tubules in vitro. Seminiferous tubules were cultured with different hormones and growth factors. Changes in the expression level of Bok mRNA during testicular development was analyzed by Northern hybridization. Localization of Bok mRNA was verified by in situ hybridization. RESULTS: Bok mRNA was highly expressed in the rat testis, varying during development. Highest expression levels were found in immature rats. Highest hybridization intensity appeared to be in spermatogonia, pachytene spermatocytes and Sertoli cells. Treatment with FSH was able to inhibit spontaneous increase of Bok mRNA expression that occurred in the defined stages of the rat seminiferous epithelium. CONCLUSIONS: FSH protects germ cells from apoptosis and this protective effect may at least partly be due to the inhibition of Bok gene expression. The amount of apoptosis varies during testicular development and highest expression of Bok mRNA occurs at the time of apoptosis, suggesting a possible role for Bok in its regulation.
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