Male germ-line stem cell potential is predicted by morphology of cells in neonatal rat testes.

Department of Animal Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.81). 10/2002; 99(18):11706-11. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.182412099
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Gonocytes are a transient population of male germ-line stem cells that are derived from primordial germ cells in the embryo and give rise to spermatogonial stem cells, which establish and maintain spermatogenesis in the postnatal testis. In contrast to spermatogonial stem cells, gonocytes can be identified easily in neonatal rat testis cell suspensions based on their large size and distinct morphology. Furthermore, histological analysis of testes from neonatal transgenic rats demonstrated that gonocytes are the only cells that express a lacZ reporter transgene. Two gonocyte subpopulations, designated pseudopod and round, were identified and isolated from neonatal (0-4 days postpartum) rat testis cell suspensions. Male germ-line stem cells, identified by their ability to produce and maintain colonies of spermatogenesis upon transplantation into infertile recipient testes, were present almost exclusively in the pseudopod gonocyte subpopulation. In contrast, annexin V staining indicated that the majority of round gonocytes undergo apoptosis. These results indicate that a nearly pure population of male germ-line stem cells can be prospectively identified in neonatal rat testis cell suspensions by morphological criteria. Together, the pseudopod and round gonocyte populations will provide powerful tools for the study of cellular mechanisms that control cell fates and the establishment of spermatogenesis in the postnatal testis.

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    ABSTRACT: Sperm have a vital role in the continuity of a species by contributing genetic information to the next generation. Production of these specialized gametes in numbers sufficient to confer normal fertility occurs via cycling of the spermatogenic lineage, a process referred to as spermatogenesis. Continuity relies on the activities of a self-renewing reservoir of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) from which progenitors will arise that transiently amplify in number before committing to a pathway of terminal differentiation. A primary population of SSCs is established during neonatal development from a pool of quiescent gonocyte precursors that forms in embryogenesis. Disruption of this process has dire consequences on maintenance of a cycling spermatogenic lineage in adulthood. At present, the molecular mechanisms underlying initial formation of the SSC pool are largely undefined. However, several transcription factors and posttranscriptional regulators have been identified as important regulators of SSC self-renewal from studies with mutant mouse models and experimental manipulation within primary cultures of mouse SSCs. Importantly, loss of function of these self-renewal factors may be underlying causes of infertility. Furthermore, disruption in the establishment of the SSC state within gonocytes or misregulation of self-renewal may manifest as testicular germ cell tumors in postnatal life.
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