The roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) represents a spontaneous model of testicular inactivation: During winter, bucks show a suspension of spermatogenesis that starts again in spring and peaks during the breeding season (July-August). The underlying mechanisms to the regulation of the cyclic testicular changes are still not fully clear but seem to be imputable to the spermatogenic cell line since other testicular cell populations remain stable without apoptotic phenomena. The aim of the study was to investigate apoptosis, gelatinases (MMP2 and 9), their inhibiting factors (TIMP 1-2), and two isoforms of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF121 and 165) with its receptors (VEGFR1-2) in testes collected during pre- and post-rut periods, and to correlate them with testicular weight (TW) and testosterone (TEST). Testes from 18 adult sexually mature bucks were collected in Bologna Apennines (Italy). Samples were weighed and parenchyma collected. Radioimmunoassay, real-time PCR, and zymography were performed. The results showed a post-rut decrease in TW and TEST and an increase in proMMP2, also highlighting a correlation between the gelatinases and the testicular functionality. The VEGF pattern did not show modifications nor correlation with TW and TEST. Overall, gelatinases and their inhibitors, described herein for the first time in roe deer testes, seem to play an important role in the testicular cycle.
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