Germline development in vivo is dependent on the environment formed by somatic cells
and the differentiation cues they provide; hence, the impact of local factors is highly relevant
to the production of sperm. Knowledge of how somatic and germline cells interact
is central to achieving biomedical goals relating to restoring, preserving or restricting
fertility in humans. This review discusses the growing understanding of how cytokines
contribute to testicular function and maintenance of male reproductive health, and to the
pathologies associated with their abnormal activity in this organ. Here we consider both
cytokines that signal through JAKs and are regulated by SOCS, and those utilizing other
pathways, such as the MAP kinases and SMADs. The importance of cytokines in the
establishment and maintenance of the testis as an immune-privilege site are described.
Current research relating to the involvement of immune cells in testis development and
disease is highlighted. This includes new data relating to testicular cancer which reinforce
the understanding that tumorigenic cells shape their microenvironment through
cytokine actions. Clinical implications in pathologies relating to local inflammation and to
immunotherapies are discussed.
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