Testis single-cell RNA-sequencing in the cynomolgus macaque reveals conserved transcriptional profiles during mammalian spermatogenesis
ABSTRACT: Spermatogenesis in mammals is a complex and highly orchestrated process, which involves the differentiation of diploid (2n-DNA content) spermatogonia into haploid (n) sperm. This process begins with spermatogonia, a niche of stem cells, which drive this process. Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) undergo mitotic self-renewal to maintain this niche, while sub-populations of spermatogonia progressively undergo differentiation and later gain competence to initiate meiosis and form sperm. SSCs undergo extensive chromatin remodelling and major morphological changes, while maintaining genome integrity and parental imprints. To study this in greater detail we performed single-cell RNA sequencing of spermatogenic cells derived from the testis of the non-human primate Macaca fascicularis.
Project description:Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) are at the foundation of mammalian spermatogenesis. Whereas rare A(single) spermatogonia comprise the rodent SSC pool, primate spermatogenesis arises from more abundant A(dark) and A(pale) spermatogonia, and the identity of the stem cell is subject to debate. The fundamental differences between these models highlight the need to investigate the biology of primate SSCs, which have greater relevance to human physiology. The alkylating chemotherapeutic agent, busulfan, ablates spermatogenesis in rodents and causes infertility in humans. We treated adult rhesus macaques with busulfan to gain insights about its effects on SSCs and spermatogenesis. Busulfan treatment caused acute declines in testis volume and sperm counts, indicating a disruption of spermatogenesis. One year following high-dose busulfan treatment, sperm counts remained undetectable, and testes were depleted of germ cells. Similar to rodents, rhesus spermatogonia expressed markers of germ cells (VASA, DAZL) and stem/progenitor spermatogonia (PLZF and GFRalpha1), and cells expressing these markers were depleted following high-dose busulfan treatment. Furthermore, fresh or cryopreserved germ cells from normal rhesus testes produced colonies of spermatogonia, which persisted as chains on the basement membrane of mouse seminiferous tubules in the primate to nude mouse xenotransplant assay. In contrast, testis cells from animals that received high-dose busulfan produced no colonies. These studies provide basic information about rhesus SSC activity and the impact of busulfan on the stem cell pool. In addition, the germ cell-depleted testis model will enable autologous/homologous transplantation to study stem cell/niche interactions in nonhuman primate testes.
Project description:Postnatal spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) progress through proliferative and developmental stages to populate the testicular niche prior to productive spermatogenesis. To better understand, we conducted extensive genomic profiling at multiple postnatal stages on subpopulations enriched for particular markers (THY1, KIT, OCT4, ID4, or GFRa1). Overall, our profiles suggest three broad populations of spermatogonia in juveniles: (1) epithelial-like spermatogonia (THY1(+); high OCT4, ID4, and GFRa1), (2) more abundant mesenchymal-like spermatogonia (THY1(+); moderate OCT4 and ID4; high mesenchymal markers), and (3) (in older juveniles) abundant spermatogonia committing to gametogenesis (high KIT(+)). Epithelial-like spermatogonia displayed the expected imprinting patterns, but, surprisingly, mesenchymal-like spermatogonia lacked imprinting specifically at paternally imprinted loci but fully restored imprinting prior to puberty. Furthermore, mesenchymal-like spermatogonia also displayed developmentally linked DNA demethylation at meiotic genes and also at certain monoallelic neural genes (e.g., protocadherins and olfactory receptors). We also reveal novel candidate receptor-ligand networks involving SSCs and the developing niche. Taken together, neonates/juveniles contain heterogeneous epithelial-like or mesenchymal-like spermatogonial populations, with the latter displaying extensive DNA methylation/chromatin dynamics. We speculate that this plasticity helps SSCs proliferate and migrate within the developing seminiferous tubule, with proper niche interaction and membrane attachment reverting mesenchymal-like spermatogonial subtype cells back to an epithelial-like state with normal imprinting profiles.
Project description:The testis produces sperm throughout the male reproductive lifespan by balancing self-renewal and differentiation of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). Part of the SSC niche is thought to lie outside the seminiferous tubules of the testis; however, specific interstitial components of the niche that regulate spermatogonial divisions and differentiation remain undefined. We identified distinct populations of testicular macrophages, one of which lies on the surface of seminiferous tubules, in close apposition to areas of tubules enriched for undifferentiated spermatogonia. These macrophages express spermatogonial proliferation- and differentiation-inducing factors, such as colony-stimulating factor 1 (CSF1) and enzymes involved in retinoic acid (RA) biosynthesis. We show that transient depletion of macrophages leads to a disruption in spermatogonial differentiation. These findings reveal an unexpected role for macrophages in the spermatogonial niche in the testis and raise the possibility that macrophages play previously unappreciated roles in stem/progenitor cell regulation in other tissues.
Project description:Mice that are ets variant gene 5 (ETV5) null (Etv5(-/-)) undergo the first wave of spermatogenesis but lose all spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) during this time. The SSC loss in Etv5(-/-) mice begins during the neonatal period, suggesting a role for ETV5 in SSC self-renewal during this period. Herein, we show that Etv5 mRNA was present in perinatal mouse testis and that ETV5 was expressed in fetal Sertoli cells and by germ cells and Sertoli cells during the neonatal period. Transplantation of Etv5(-/-) germ cells failed to establish spermatogenesis in W/W(v) mice testes, indicating that germ cell ETV5 has a key role in establishment or self-renewal of transplanted SSCs. The SSC self-renewal is stimulated by glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) acting through the RET/GDNF family receptor alpha 1 (GFRA1) receptor complex in SSCs. Immunohistochemistry, quantitative PCR, and laser capture microdissection revealed decreased RET mRNA and protein expression in spermatogonia of neonatal Etv5(-/-) mice by Postnatal Days 4-8, indicating that disrupted GDNF/RET/GFRA1 signaling may occur before initial spermatogonial stem/progenitor cell decrease. Etv5(-/-) spermatogonia had reduced proliferation in vivo and in vitro. Decreased cell proliferation may cause the observed decreases in the number of type A spermatogonia (Postnatal Day 17) and daily sperm production (Postnatal Day 30) in Etv5(-/-) mice, indicating quantitative impairments in the first wave of spermatogenesis. In conclusion, ETV5 is expressed beginning in fetal Sertoli cells and can potentially have effects on neonatal Sertoli cells and germ cells. In addition, ETV5 has critical effects on neonatal spermatogonial proliferation, which may involve impaired signaling through the RET receptor.
Project description:Gene expression and consequent biological activity of adult tissue stem cells are regulated by signals emanating from the local microenvironment (niche). To gain insights into the molecular regulation of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), gene expression was characterized from SSCs isolated from their cognate niches of cryptorchid (stem cell-enriched), wild-type, and busulfan-treated (stem cell-depleted) mouse testes. Quantitative assessment of stem cell activity in each testis model was determined using an in vivo functional assay and correlated with gene expression using Affymetrix MGU74Av2 microarrays and the ChipStat algorithm optimized to detect gene expression from rare cells in complex tissues. We identified 389 stem/progenitor spermatogonia candidate genes, which exhibited significant overlap with genes expressed by embryonic, hematopoietic, and neural stem cells; enriched spermatogonia; and cultured SSCs identified in previous studies. Candidate cell surface markers identified by the microarray may facilitate the isolation and enrichment of stem and/or progenitor spermatogonia. Flow cytometric analyses confirmed the expression of chemokine receptor 2 (Ccr2) and Cd14 on a subpopulation cryptorchid testis cells (alpha6-integrin+, side scatter(lo)) enriched for SSCs. These cell surface molecules may mark progenitor spermatogonia but not SSCs because Ccr2+ and Cd14+ fractions failed to produce spermatogenesis upon transplantation to recipient testes. Functional annotation of candidate genes and subsequent immunohistochemistry revealed that proteins involved in post-transcriptional regulation are overrepresented in cryptorchid testes that are enriched for SSCs. Comparative analyses indicated that this is a recurrent biological theme among stem cells.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) are the foundation of spermatogenesis, and reside within a specific microenvironment in the testes called "niche" which regulates stem cell properties, such as, self-renewal, pluripotency, quiescence and their ability to differentiate. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Here, we introduce zebrafish as a new model for the study of SSCs in vertebrates. Using 5'-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU), we identified long term BrdU-retaining germ cells, type A undifferentiated spermatogonia as putative stem cells in zebrafish testes. Similar to rodents, these cells were preferentially located near the interstitium, suggesting that the SSC niche is related to interstitial elements and might be conserved across vertebrates. This localization was also confirmed by analyzing the topographical distribution of type A undifferentiated spermatogonia in normal, vasa::egfp and fli::egfp zebrafish testes. In the latter one, the topographical arrangement suggested that the vasculature is important for the SSC niche, perhaps as a supplier of nutrients, oxygen and/or signaling molecules. We also developed an SSC transplantation technique for both male and female recipients as an assay to evaluate the presence, biological activity, and plasticity of the SSC candidates in zebrafish. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: We demonstrated donor-derived spermato- and oogenesis in male and female recipients, respectively, indicating the stemness of type A undifferentiated spermatogonia and their plasticity when placed into an environment different from their original niche. Similar to other vertebrates, the transplantation efficiency was low. This might be attributed to the testicular microenvironment created after busulfan depletion in the recipients, which may have caused an imbalance between factors regulating self-renewal or differentiation of the transplanted SSCs.
Project description:Azoospermic factor c (AZFc) deletions are the underlying cause in 10% of azoo- or severe oligozoospermia. Through extensive molecular analysis the precise genetic content of the AZFc region and the origin of its deletion have been determined. However, little is known about the effect of AZFc deletions on the functionality of germ cells at various developmental steps. The presence of normal, fertilization-competent sperm in the ejaculate and/or testis of the majority of men with AZFc deletions suggests that the process of differentiation from spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) to mature spermatozoa can take place in the absence of the AZFc region. To determine the functionality of AZFc-deleted spermatogonia, we compared in vitro propagated spermatogonia from six men with complete AZFc deletions with spermatogonia from three normozoospermic controls. We found that spermatogonia of AZFc-deleted men behave similar to controls during culture. Short-term (18 days) and long-term (48 days) culture of AZFc-deleted spermatogonia showed the same characteristics as non-deleted spermatogonia. This similarity was revealed by the same number of passages, the same germ cell clusters formation and similar level of genes expression of spermatogonial markers including ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal esterase L1 (UCHL1), zinc finger and BTB domain containing 16 (ZBTB16) and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor family receptor alpha 1 (GFRA1), as well as germ cell differentiation markers including signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3), spermatogenesis and oogenesis specific basic helix-loophelix 2 (SOHLH2), v-kit Hardy-Zuckerman 4 feline sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (KIT) and synaptonemal complex protein 3 (SYCP3). The only exception was melanoma antigen family A4 (MAGEA4) which showed significantly lower expression in AZFc-deleted samples than controls in short-term culture while in long-term culture it was hardly detected in both AZFc-deleted and control spermatogonia. These data suggest that, at least in vitro, spermatogonia of AZFc-deleted men are functionally similar to spermatogonia from non-deleted men. Potentially, this enables treatment of men with AZFc deletions by propagating their SSCs in vitro and autotransplanting these SSCs back to the testes to increase sperm counts and restore fertility.
Project description:Spermatogenesis requires retinoic acid (RA) induction of the undifferentiated to differentiating transition in transit amplifying (TA) progenitor spermatogonia, whereas continuity of the spermatogenic lineage relies on the RA response being suppressed in spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). Here, we discovered that, in mouse testes, both spermatogonial populations possess intrinsic RA-response machinery and exhibit hallmarks of the differentiating transition following direct exposure to RA, including loss of SSC regenerative capacity. We determined that SSCs are only resistant to RA-driven differentiation when situated in the normal topological organization of the testis. Furthermore, we show that the soma is instrumental in "priming" TA progenitors for RA-induced differentiation through elevated RA receptor expression. Collectively, these findings indicate that SSCs and TA progenitor spermatogonia inhabit disparate niche microenvironments within seminiferous tubules that are critical for mediating extrinsic cues that drive fate decisions.
Project description:Prepubertal boys treated with high-dose chemotherapy do not have an established means of fertility preservation because no established in vitro technique exists to expand and mature purified spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) to functional sperm in humans. In this study, we define and characterize the unique testicular cellular niche required for SSC expansion using testicular tissues from men with normal spermatogenesis. Highly purified SSCs and testicular somatic cells were isolated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting using SSEA-4 and THY1 as markers of SSCs and somatic cells. Cells were cultured on various established niches to assess their role in SSC expansion in a defined somatic cellular niche. Of all the niches examined, cells in the SSEA-4 population exclusively bound to adult testicular stromal cells, established colonies, and expanded. Further characterization of these testicular stromal cells revealed distinct mesenchymal markers and the ability to undergo differentiation along the mesenchymal lineage, supporting a testicular multipotent stromal cell origin. In vitro human SSC expansion requires a unique niche provided exclusively by testicular multipotent stromal cells with mesenchymal properties. These findings provide an important foundation for developing methods of inducing SSC growth and maturation in prepubertal testicular tissue, essential to enabling fertility preservation for these boys.
Project description:In the seminiferous epithelium, spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) are located in a particular environment called the "niche" that is controlled by the basement membrane, key testis somatic cells, and factors originating from the vascular network. However, the role of Leydig cells (LCs) as a niche component is not yet clearly elucidated. Recent studies showed that peccaries (Tayassu tajacu) present a peculiar LC cytoarchitecture in which these cells are located around the seminiferous tubule lobes, making the peccary a unique model for investigating the SSC niche. This peculiarity allowed us to subdivide the seminiferous tubule cross-sections in three different testis parenchyma regions (tubule-tubule, tubule-interstitium, and tubule-LC contact). Our aims were to characterize the different spermatogonial cell types and to determine the location and/or distribution of the SSCs along the seminiferous tubules. Compared to differentiating spermatogonia, undifferentiated spermatogonia (A(und)) presented a noticeably higher nuclear volume (P < 0.05), allowing an accurate evaluation of their distribution. Immunostaining analysis demonstrated that approximately 93% of A(und) were GDNF receptor alpha 1 positive (GFRA1(+)), and these cells were preferentially located adjacent to the interstitial compartment without LCs (P < 0.05). The expression of colony-stimulating factor 1 was observed in LCs and peritubular myoid cells (PMCs), whereas its receptor was present in LCs and in GFRA1(+) A(und). Taken together, our findings strongly suggest that LCs, different from PMCs, might play a minor role in the SSC niche and physiology and that these steroidogenic cells are probably involved in the differentiation of A(und) toward type A(1) spermatogonia.