The insulin-like factor 3 (INSL3)-receptor (RXFP2) network functions as a germ cell survival/anti-apoptotic factor in boar testes.

PMID 25562614


Relaxin-like factor, commonly known as insulin-like factor (INSL3), is essential for testis descent during fetal development; however, its function in the adult testis is still being elucidated. The study aimed to identify a relaxin family peptide receptor 2 (RXFP2)-specific antibody suitable for immunological approaches, analyze which testicular germ cell types express RXFP2, and clarify its expression dynamics in the boar testis. In addition, the function of INSL3-RXFP2 signaling on the germ cells was explored by neutralizing INSL3 using long-term active immunization. Samples were collected from Duroc boars, and a commercially available RXFP2-specific antibody directed against the human RXFP2 endodomain was identified by characterizing its specificity in HEK-293 cells expressing mouse RXFP2, and by demonstrating the suitability for analyzing RXFP2 expression in porcine tissues. RXFP2 mRNA and protein were both localized mainly in meiotic and post-meiotic germ cells, but not in Leydig cells. Functional RXFP2, which enables INSL3 to bind, was detected as an ∼85-kDa band, which increased in intensity from the pubertal stage onward. Interestingly, INSL3 immunization significantly reduced testis weight and induced a 4-fold increase in the frequency of apoptotic germ cells, which was associated with the up-regulation of pro-apoptotic caspase-3 (CASP3) and BAX, and the down-regulation of anti-apoptotic XIAP and BCL2, and a substantial reduction in sperm concentration. These results revealed that RXFP2 was expressed in boar meiotic and post-meiotic germ cells, where INSL3 neutralization led to increased germ cell apoptosis and reduced sperm output, suggesting that INSL3 acts as a survival/anti-apoptotic factor in maintaining sperm production.