INVITED REVIEW
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 591-596

Exploring the role of mononuclear phagocytes in the epididymis


Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Division of Nephrology, Center for Systems Biology, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence Address:
Nicolas Da Silva
Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Division of Nephrology, Center for Systems Biology, Boston, Massachusetts
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1008-682X.153540

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The onslaught of foreign antigens carried by spermatozoa into the epididymis, an organ that has not demonstrated immune privilege, a decade or more after the establishment of central immune tolerance presents a unique biological challenge. Historically, the physical confinement of spermatozoa to the epididymal tubule enforced by a tightly interwoven wall of epithelial cells was considered sufficient enough to prevent cross talk between gametes and the immune system and, ultimately, autoimmune destruction. The discovery of an intricate arrangement of mononuclear phagocytes (MPs) comprising dendritic cells and macrophages in the murine epididymis suggests that we may have underestimated the existence of a sophisticated mucosal immune system in the posttesticular environment. This review consolidates our current knowledge of the physiology of MPs in the steady state epididymis and speculates on possible interactions between auto-antigenic spermatozoa, pathogens and the immune system by drawing on what is known about the immune system in the intestinal mucosa. Ultimately, further investigation will provide valuable information regarding the origins of pathologies arising as a result of autoimmune or inflammatory responses in the epididymis, including epididymitis and infertility.


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