Abstract Aquaporin-9 (AQP-9) regulates tissue hydration by promoting transmembrane exchanges of both water and solutes, such as lactate. The latter is a key metabolite of primary spermatocytes and of maturing haploid germ cells (h-GCs). The present investigation was aimed at immunolocalising human AQP-9 in both normal and varicocele testes. Histology and immmunocytochemistry were investigated in archival biopsies from 20 varicocele testes and in eight unaffected ones. AQP-9 immunostaining was performed using a rabbit antibody, and either focal or diffuse cell membrane labelling was recorded. Varicocele testes showed disarranged tubular compartments, with sloughing h-GCs, tissue hyperhydration, spermiogenesis failure and fibrosis. AQP-9 immunohistology of the control testes showed a diffuse cell membrane staining of the primary spermatocytes and h-GCs, without any positive reaction of spermatogonia and Sertoli cells. AQP-9 cell expression in the varicocele testes was focal or lacking in both adluminal and sloughing GCs. AQP-9 expression occurs in normal human testis, at cell membrane of primary spermatocytes and h-GCs, suggesting a possible role of AQP-9 in the water and lactate transport from Sertoli cells to GCs. AQP-9 is focal or lacking in adolescent varicocele testes, and this suggests AQP-9 to be downregulated in such testicular disorder, leading to lactate deprivation with subsequent hypospermatogenesis. © 2010 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.
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