Nestin in the epididymis is expressed in vascular wall cells and is regulated during postnatal development and in case of testosterone deficiency
Vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs), distinguished by the expression of the neuronal stem cell marker nestin, may represent stem cell-like progenitor cells in various organs including the testis. We investigated epididymal tissues of adult nestin-GFP mice, rats after Leydig cell depletion via ethane dimethane sulfonate (EDS), rats and mice during ... postnatal development and human tissues. By use of Clarity, a histochemical method to illustrate a three-dimensional picture, we could demonstrate nestin-GFP positive cells within the vascular network. We localized nestin in the epididymis in proliferating vascular SMCs by colocalization with both smooth muscle actin and PCNA, and it was distinct from CD31-positive endothelial cells. The same nestin localization was found in the human epididymis. However, nestin was not found in SMCs of the epididymal duct. Nestin expression is high during postnatal development of mouse and rat and down-regulated towards adulthood when testosterone levels increase. Nestin increases dramatically in rats after Leydig cell ablation with EDS and subsequently low testosterone levels. Interestingly, during this period, the expression of androgen receptor in the epididymis is low and increases until nestin reaches normal levels of adulthood. Here we show that nestin, a common marker for neuronal stem cells, is also expressed in the vasculature of the epididymis. Our results give new insights into the yet underestimated role of proliferating nestin-expressing vascular SMCs during postnatal development and repair of the epididymis.