TAF4b is required for mouse spermatogonial stem cell development.
ABSTRACT: Long-term mammalian spermatogenesis requires proper development of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) that replenish the testis with germ cell progenitors during adult life. TAF4b is a gonadal-enriched component of the general transcription factor complex, TFIID, which is required for the maintenance of spermatogenesis in the mouse. Successful germ cell transplantation assays into adult TAF4b-deficient host testes suggested that TAF4b performs an essential germ cell autonomous function in SSC establishment and/or maintenance. To elucidate the SSC function of TAF4b, we characterized the initial gonocyte pool and rounds of spermatogenic differentiation in the context of the Taf4b-deficient mouse testis. Here, we demonstrate a significant reduction in the late embryonic gonocyte pool and a deficient expansion of this pool soon after birth. Resulting from this reduction of germ cell progenitors is a developmental delay in meiosis initiation, as compared to age-matched controls. While GFR?1+ spermatogonia are appropriately present as Asingle and Apaired in wild-type testes, TAF4b-deficient testes display an increased proportion of long and clustered chains of GFR?1+ cells. In the absence of TAF4b, seminiferous tubules in the adult testis either lack germ cells altogether or are found to have missing generations of spermatogenic progenitor cells. Together these data indicate that TAF4b-deficient spermatogenic progenitor cells display a tendency for differentiation at the expense of self-renewal and a renewing pool of SSCs fail to establish during the critical window of SSC development.
Project description:The ability of men to remain fertile throughout their lives depends upon establishment of a spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) pool from gonocyte progenitors, and thereafter balancing SSC renewal versus terminal differentiation. Here, we report that precise regulation of the cell cycle is crucial for this balance. Whereas cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (Cdk2) is not necessary for mouse viability or gametogenesis stages prior to meiotic prophase I, mice bearing a deregulated allele (Cdk2Y15S ) are severely deficient in spermatogonial differentiation. This allele disrupts an inhibitory phosphorylation site (Tyr15) for the kinase WEE1. Remarkably, Cdk2Y15S/Y15S mice possess abnormal clusters of mitotically active SSC-like cells, but these are eventually removed by apoptosis after failing to differentiate properly. Analyses of lineage markers, germ cell proliferation over time, and single cell RNA-seq data revealed delayed and defective differentiation of gonocytes into SSCs. Biochemical and genetic data demonstrated that Cdk2Y15S is a gain-of-function allele causing elevated kinase activity, which underlies these differentiation defects. Our results demonstrate that precise regulation of CDK2 kinase activity in male germ cell development is crucial for the gonocyte-to-spermatogonia transition and long-term spermatogenic homeostasis.
Project description:Spermatogenesis is a cellular differentiation process that includes three major events: mitosis of spermatogonia, meiosis of spermatocytes and spermiogenesis. Steady-state spermatogenesis relies on functions of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). Establishing and maintaining a foundational SSC pool is essential for continued spermatogenesis in mammals. Currently, our knowledge about SSC and spermatogenesis is severely limited in domestic animals. In the present study, we examined transcriptomes of testes from domestic yaks at four different stages (3, 5, 8 and 24 months of age) and attempted to identify genes that are associated with key developmental events of spermatogenesis. Histological analyses showed that the most advanced germ cells within seminiferous tubules of testes from 3, 5, 8 and 24 months old yaks were gonocytes, spermatogonia, spermatocytes and elongated spermatids, respectively. RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) analyses revealed that 11904, 4381 and 2459 genes were differentially expressed during the gonocyte to spermatogonia transition, the mitosis to meiosis transition and the meiosis to post-meiosis transition. Further analyses identified a list of candidate genes than may regulate these important cellular processes. CXCR4, a previously identified SSC niche factor in mouse, was one of the up-regulated genes in the 5 months old yak testis. Results of immunohistochemical staining confirmed that CXCR4 was exclusively expressed in gonocytes and a subpopulation of spermatogonia in the yak testis. Together, these findings demonstrated histological changes of postnatal testis development in the domestic yak. During development of spermatogonial lineage, meiotic and haploid germ cells are supported by dynamic transcriptional regulation of gene expression. Our transcriptomic analyses provided a list of candidate genes that potentially play crucial roles in directing the establishment of SSC and spermatogenesis in yak.
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:Homozygosity for the Ter mutation in the RNA-binding protein Dead end 1 (Dnd1(Ter/Ter)) sensitizes germ cells to degeneration in all mouse strains. In 129/SvJ mice, approximately 10% of Dnd1(Ter/+) heterozygotes develop spermatogenic failure, and 95% of unilateral cases occur in the left testis. The first differences between right and left testes were detected at Postnatal Day 15 when many more spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) were undergoing apoptosis in the left testis compared to the right. As we detected no significant left/right differences in the molecular pathway associated with body axis asymmetry or in the expression of signals known to promote proliferation, differentiation, and survival of germ cells, we investigated whether physiological differences might account for asymmetry of the degeneration phenotype. We show that left/right differences in vascular architecture are associated with a decrease in hemoglobin saturation and increased levels of HIF-1alpha in the left testis compared to the right. In Dnd1 heterozygotes, lower oxygen availability was associated with metabolic differences, including lower levels of ATP and NADH in the left testis. These experiments suggest a dependence on oxygen availability and metabolic substrates for SSC survival and suggest that Dnd1(Ter/+) SSCs may act as efficient sensors to detect subtle environmental changes that alter SSC fate.
Project description:Sertoli cells, the primary somatic cell in the seminiferous epithelium, provide the spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) microenvironment (niche) through physical support and the expression of paracrine factors. However, the regulatory mechanisms within the SSC niche, which is primarily controlled by Sertoli cells, remain largely unknown. GATA4 is a Sertoli cell marker, involved in genital ridge initiation, sex determination and differentiation during the embryonic stage. Here, we showed that neonatal mice with a targeted disruption of Gata4 in Sertoli cells (Gata4(flox/flox); Amh-Cre; hereafter termed Gata4 cKO) displayed a loss of the establishment and maintenance of the SSC pool and apoptosis of both gonocyte-derived differentiating spermatogonia and meiotic spermatocytes. Thus, progressive germ cell depletion and a Sertoli-cell-only syndrome were observed as early as the first wave of murine spermatogenesis. Transplantation of germ cells from postnatal day 5 (P5) Gata4 cKO mice into Kit(W/W-v) recipient seminiferous tubules restored spermatogenesis. In addition, microarray analyses of P5 Gata4 cKO mouse testes showed alterations in chemokine signaling factors, including Cxcl12, Ccl3, Cxcr4 (CXCL12 receptor), Ccr1 (CCL3 receptor), Ccl9, Xcl1 and Ccrl2. Deletion of Gata4 in Sertoli cells markedly attenuated Sertoli cell chemotaxis, which guides SSCs or prospermatogonia to the stem cell niche. Finally, we showed that GATA4 transcriptionally regulated Cxcl12 and Ccl9, and the addition of CXCL12 and CCL9 to an in vitro testis tissue culture system increased the number of PLZF+ undifferentiated spermatogonia within Gata4 cKO testes. Together, these results reveal a novel role for GATA4 in controlling the SSC niche via the transcriptional regulation of chemokine signaling shortly after birth.
Project description:The blood-testis barrier (BTB) is thought to be indispensable for spermatogenesis because it creates a special environment for meiosis and protects haploid cells from the immune system. The BTB divides the seminiferous tubules into the adluminal and basal compartments. Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) have a unique ability to transmigrate from the adluminal compartment to the basal compartment through the BTB upon transplantation into the seminiferous tubule. Here, we analyzed the role of Cldn11, a major component of the BTB, in spermatogenesis using spermatogonial transplantation. Cldn11-deficient mice are infertile due to the cessation of spermatogenesis at the spermatocyte stage. Cldn11-deficient SSCs failed to colonize wild-type testes efficiently, and Cldn11-deficient SSCs that underwent double depletion of Cldn3 and Cldn5 showed minimal colonization, suggesting that claudins on SSCs are necessary for transmigration. However, Cldn11-deficient Sertoli cells increased SSC homing efficiency by >3-fold, suggesting that CLDN11 in Sertoli cells inhibits transmigration of SSCs through the BTB. In contrast to endogenous SSCs in intact Cldn11-deficient testes, those from WT or Cldn11-deficient testes regenerated sperm in Cldn11-deficient testes. The success of this autologous transplantation appears to depend on removal of endogenous germ cells for recipient preparation, which reprogrammed claudin expression patterns in Sertoli cells. Consistent with this idea, in vivo depletion of Cldn3/5 regenerated endogenous spermatogenesis in Cldn11-deficient mice. Thus, coordinated claudin expression in both SSCs and Sertoli cells expression is necessary for SSC homing and regeneration of spermatogenesis, and autologous stem cell transplantation can rescue congenital defects of a self-renewing tissue.
Project description:During neonatal testis development, centrally located gonocytes migrate to basement membrane of the seminiferous cords, where physical contact with a niche established by Sertoli cells is essential for transition of gonocytes into spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). To provide structural support and signaling stimuli for the gonocyte-to-SSC transition that occurs at a specific location during a finite phase, temporal-spatial establishment of the niche is critical. To date, the factors that guide Sertoli cells to establish the initial stem cell niche remain largely unknown. Using the Sertoli cell-specific Arid4b knockout (Arid4bSCKO) mice, we demonstrated that ablation of AT-rich interaction domain 4B (ARID4B) resulted in abnormal detachment of Sertoli cells from the basement membrane of seminiferous cords during the gonocyte-to-SSC transition phase, suggesting failure to establish a niche for the SSC formation. Without support by a niche environment, gonocytes showed disarranged cell distribution in the Arid4bSCKO testes and underwent apoptosis. The commitment of gonocytes to differentiate into the spermatogonial lineage was broken and the capability of SSCs to self-renew and differentiate was also impaired. Gene expression profiling revealed the molecular mechanisms responsible for the phenotypic changes in the Arid4bSCKO testes, by identifying genes important for stem cell niche function as downstream effectors of ARID4B, including genes that encode gap junction protein alpha-1, KIT ligand, anti-Müllerian hormone, Glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor, inhibin alpha, inhibin beta, and cytochrome P450 family 26 subfamily b polypeptide 1. Our results identified ARID4B as a master regulator of a signaling network that governs the establishment of a niche during the critical gonocyte-to-SSC transition phase to control the fate of gonocytes and SSCs. Stem Cells 2017;35:1554-1565.
Project description:In the human testis, beginning at approximately 2 months of age, gonocytes are replaced by adult dark (Ad) and pale (Ap) spermatogonia that make up the spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) pool. In mice, the SSC pool arises from gonocytes approximately 6 days after birth. During puberty in both species, complete spermatogenesis is established by cells that differentiate from SSCs. Essentially pure populations of prepubertal human spermatogonia and mouse gonocytes were selected from testis biopsies and validated by confirming the presence of specific marker proteins in cells. Stem cell potential of germ cells was demonstrated by transplantation to mouse testes, following which the cells migrated to the basement membrane of the seminiferous tubule and were maintained similar to SSCs. Differential gene expression profiles generated between germ cells and testis somatic cells demonstrated that expression of genes previously identified as SSC and spermatogonial-specific markers (e.g., zinc-finger and BTB-domain containing 16, ZBTB16) was greatly elevated in both human spermatogonia and mouse gonocytes compared to somatic cells. Several genes were expressed at significantly higher levels in germ cells of both species. Most importantly, genes known to be essential for mouse SSC self-renewal (e.g., Ret proto-oncogene, Ret; GDNF-family receptor alpha1, Gfr alpha1; and B-cell CLL/lymphoma 6, member B, Bcl6b) were more highly expressed in both prepubertal human spermatogonia and mouse gonocytes than in somatic cells. The results indicate remarkable conservation of gene expression, notably for self-renewal genes, in these prepubertal germline cells between two species that diverged phylogenetically approximately 75 million years ago.
Project description:Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) function to regulate the balance of self-renewal and differentiation of male gametes. SSCs have been successfully isolated and cultured in vitro in several species, but not in feline. Therefore, in this study, we aimed to culture and characterize feline SSCs. In experiment 1, testes (n=5) from different pubertal domestic cats were cryosectioned and fluorescently immunolabeled to examine the expression of SSC (GFR?-1), differentiated spermatogonium (c-kit) and germ cell (DDX-4) markers. In experiments 2 and 3, testicular cells were digested and subsequently cultured in vitro. The resultant presumptive SSC colonies were then collected for SSC identification (experiment 2), or further cultured in vitro on feeder cells (experiment 3). Morphology, gene expression and immunofluorescence were used to identify the SSCs. Experiment 1 demonstrated that varying types of spermatogenic cells existed and expressed different germ cell/SSC markers. A rare population of putative SSCs located at the basement membrane of the seminiferous tubules was specifically identified by co-expression of GFR?-1 and DDX-4. Following enzymatic digestion, grape-like colonies formed by 13-15 days of culture. These colonies expressed GFRA1 and ZBTB16, but did not express KIT. Although we successfully isolated and cultured feline SSCs in vitro, the SSCs could only be maintained for 57 days. In conclusion, this study demonstrates, for the first time, that putative SSCs from testes of pubertal domestic cats can be isolated and cultured in vitro. These cells exhibited SSC morphology and expressed SSC-specific genes. However, long-term culture of these putative SSCs was compromised.
Project description:The spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) pool in the testes of non-human primates is poorly defined.To begin characterizing SSCs in rhesus macaque testes, we employed fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), a xenotransplant bioassay and immunohistochemical methods and correlated our findings with classical descriptions of germ cell nuclear morphology (i.e. A(dark) and A(pale) spermatogonia).FACS analysis identified a THY-1+ fraction of rhesus testis cells that was enriched for consensus SSC markers (i.e. PLZF, GFRalpha1) and exhibited enhanced colonizing activity upon transplantation to nude mouse testes. We observed a substantial conservation of spermatogonial markers from mice to monkeys [PLZF, GFRalpha1, Neurogenin 3 (NGN3), cKIT]. Assuming that molecular characteristics correlate with function, the pool of putative SSCs (THY-1+, PLZF+, GFRalpha1+, NGN3+/-, cKIT-) comprises most A(dark) and A(pale) and is considerably larger in primates than in rodents. It is noteworthy that the majority of A(dark) and A(pale) share a common molecular phenotype, considering their distinct functional classifications as reserve and renewing stem cells, respectively. NGN3 is absent from A(dark), but is expressed by some A(pale) and may mark the transition from undifferentiated (cKIT-) to differentiating (cKIT+) spermatogonia. Finally, the pool of transit-amplifying progenitor spermatogonia (PLZF+, GFRalpha1+, NGN3+, cKIT+/-) is smaller in primates than in rodents. CONCLUSIONS These results provide an in-depth analysis of molecular characteristics of primate spermatogonia, including SSCs, and lay a foundation for future studies investigating the kinetics of spermatogonial renewal, clonal expansion and differentiation during primate spermatogenesis.