Glucose Transport and Metabolism in Sertoli Cell: Relevance for Male Fertility
Tânia R. Dias, Ana D. Martins, Vânia P. Reis, Sílvia Socorro, Branca M. Silva, Marco G. Alves and Pedro F. Oliveira
Sertoli cells (SCs) are essential for the testis functional development and hence for the expression of male phenotype.
They provide a unique and protected environment in testis, within the seminiferous tubules, necessary for the successful
progression of germ cells into fully competent spermatozoa. SC has the ability to metabolize various substrates,
but preferentially uses glucose that is converted to pyruvate and lactate. This is a crucial event since lactate is essential for
germ cells survival and development due to its anti-apoptotic effect and its role as energy source. Glucose metabolism in
SCs is under the complex control of several hormones, predominantly sex steroid hormones, thyroid hormones (THs), follicle-
stimulating hormone (FSH) and insulin. This process may occur without the requirement of protein synthesis, suggesting
a modulation of enzyme activity and/or regulation of glucose transport. The transport of glucose through the
plasma membrane contributes to the modulation of lactate secretion by SCs and is mediated by specific carriers. There are
two different families of glucose transport proteins: the Sodium Dependent Glucose Transporters (SGLTs) and the Glucose
Transporters (GLUTs), which act in a very distinct manner. The maintenance of spermatogenesis in vivo and the
male fertility capacity requires a metabolic cooperation between SCs and germ cells. Indeed, an alteration in SCs ability to
metabolize glucose would be expected to compromise the energy supplies to germ cells and subsequently male fertility.
Herein, we discuss the regulatory molecular mechanisms of glucose transport and metabolism in SC as well as their relevance
for male fertility.
Germ cells, Glucose metabolism, Glucose transport, Lactate, Sertoli cells, Spermatogen
Health Sciences Research Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Beira Interior, Av. Infante D. Henrique, 6201-506 Covilhã, Portugal