Growth kinetics of Chlamydia trachomatis in primary human Sertoli cells.


Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases, Section of Microbiology, Sapienza University, Rome, Italy. [Email]


Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct) is the leading cause of bacterial sexually transmitted infections worldwide and has been associated with male infertility. Recently, it was hypothesized that Ct may infect the epithelium of the seminiferous tubule, formed by Sertoli cells, thus leading to impaired spermatogenesis. To date, there is a lack of data on Ct infection of the seminiferous epithelium; therefore, we aimed to characterize, for the first time, an in vitro infection model of primary human Sertoli cells. We compared Ct inclusion size, morphology and growth kinetics with those in McCoy cells and we studied F-actin fibres, Vimentin-based intermediate filaments and α-tubulin microtubules in Sertoli and McCoy cells. Our main finding highlighted the ability of Ct to infect Sertoli cells, although with a unique growth profile and the inability to exit host cells. Furthermore, we observed alterations in the cytoskeletal fibres of infected Sertoli cells. Our results suggest that Ct struggles to generate a productive infection in Sertoli cells, limiting its dissemination in the host. Nevertheless, the adverse effect on the cytoskeleton supports the notion that Ct may compromise the blood-testis barrier, impairing spermatogenesis.