Cell type-autonomous and non-autonomous requirements for Dmrt1 in postnatal testis differentiation

Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.
Developmental Biology (Impact Factor: 3.64). 08/2007; 307(2):314-27. DOI: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2007.04.046
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Genes containing the DM domain, a conserved DNA binding motif first found in Doublesex of Drosophila and mab-3 of Caenorhabditis elegans, regulate sexual differentiation in multiple phyla. The DM domain gene Dmrt1 is essential for testicular differentiation in vertebrates. In the mouse, Dmrt1 is expressed in pre-meiotic germ cells and in Sertoli cells, which provide essential support for spermatogenesis. Dmrt1 null mutant mice have severely dysgenic testes in which Sertoli cells and germ cells both fail to differentiate properly after birth. Here we use conditional gene targeting to identify the functions of Dmrt1 in each cell type. We find that Dmrt1 is required in Sertoli cells for their postnatal differentiation, and for germ line maintenance and for meiotic progression. Dmrt1 is required in germ cells for their radial migration to the periphery of the seminiferous tubule where the spermatogenic niche will form, for mitotic reactivation and for survival beyond the first postnatal week. Thus Dmrt1 activity is required autonomously in the Sertoli and germ cell lineages, and Dmrt1 activity in Sertoli cells is also required non-autonomously to maintain the germ line. These results demonstrate that Dmrt1 plays multiple roles in controlling the remodeling and differentiation of the juvenile testis.

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    ABSTRACT: Transcription factors related to the insect sex-determination gene doublesex (DMRT proteins) control sex determination and/or sexual differentiation in diverse metazoans and are implicated in transitions between sex-determining mechanisms during vertebrate evolution [1]. In mice, Dmrt1 is required for male gonadal differentiation in somatic cells and germ cells [2-4]. DMRT1 also maintains male gonadal sex: its loss, even in adults, can trigger sexual cell-fate reprogramming in which male Sertoli cells transdifferentiate into their female equivalents-granulosa cells-and testicular tissue reorganizes to a more ovarian morphology [5]. Here we use a conditional Dmrt1 transgene to show that Dmrt1 is not only necessary but also sufficient to specify male cell identity in the mouse gonad. DMRT1 expression in the ovary silenced the female sex-maintenance gene Foxl2 and reprogrammed juvenile and adult granulosa cells into Sertoli-like cells, triggering formation of structures resembling male seminiferous tubules. DMRT1 can silence Foxl2 even in the absence of the testis-determining genes Sox8 and Sox9. mRNA profiling found that DMRT1 activates many testicular genes and downregulates ovarian genes and single-cell RNA sequencing in transdifferentiating cells identified dynamically expressed candidate mediators of this process. Strongly upregulated genes were highly enriched on chromosome X, consistent with sexually antagonistic functions. This study provides an in vivo example of single-gene reprogramming of cell sexual identity. Our findings suggest a reconsideration of mechanisms involved in human disorders of sex development (DSDs) and empirically support evolutionary models in which loss or gain of Dmrt1 function promotes establishment of new vertebrate sex-determination systems. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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    ABSTRACT: In mammals, a key transition in spermatogenesis is the exit from spermatogonial differentiation and mitotic proliferation and the entry into spermatocyte differentiation and meiosis. Although several genes that regulate this transition have been identified, how it is controlled and coordinated remains poorly understood. Here, we examine the role in male gametogenesis of the Doublesex-related gene Dmrt6 (Dmrtb1) in mice and find that Dmrt6 plays a crucial role in directing germ cells through the mitotic-to-meiotic germ cell transition. DMRT6 protein is expressed in late mitotic spermatogonia. In mice of the C57BL/6J strain, a null mutation in Dmrt6 disrupts spermatogonial differentiation, causing inappropriate expression of spermatogonial differentiation factors, including SOHLH1, SOHLH2 and DMRT1 as well as the meiotic initiation factor STRA8, and causing most late spermatogonia to undergo apoptosis. In mice of the 129Sv background, most Dmrt6 mutant germ cells can complete spermatogonial differentiation and enter meiosis, but they show defects in meiotic chromosome pairing, establishment of the XY body and processing of recombination foci, and they mainly arrest in mid-pachynema. mRNA profiling of Dmrt6 mutant testes together with DMRT6 chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing suggest that DMRT6 represses genes involved in spermatogonial differentiation and activates genes required for meiotic prophase. Our results indicate that Dmrt6 plays a key role in coordinating the transition in gametogenic programs from spermatogonial differentiation and mitosis to spermatocyte development and meiosis.
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