Retinoblastoma protein (RB1) controls fate determination in stem cells and progenitors of the mouse male germline.
ABSTRACT: Continual spermatogenesis is the cornerstone of male fertility and relies on the actions of an undifferentiated spermatogonial population comprised of stem cells and progenitors. A foundational spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) pool is established during postnatal development that serves as a self-renewing reservoir from which progenitor spermatogonia arise that transiently amplify in number before committing to terminal differentiation. At present, the underlying molecular mechanisms governing these actions are undefined. Using conditional mutant mouse models, we investigated whether function of the undifferentiated spermatogonial population during postnatal life is influenced by the tumor suppressor protein RB1. Spermatogenesis initiates in mice with conditional inactivation of Rb1 in prospermatogonial precursors, but the germline is progressively lost upon aging due to impaired renewal of the undifferentiated spermatogonial population. In contrast, continual spermatogenesis is sustained following Rb1 inactivation in progenitor spermatogonia, but some cells transform into a carcinoma in situ-like state. Furthermore, knockdown of Rb1 abundance within primary cultures of wild-type undifferentiated spermatogonia impairs maintenance of the SSC pool, and some cells are invasive of the basement membrane after transplant into recipient testes, indicating acquisition of tumorigenic properties. Collectively, these findings indicate that RB1 plays an essential role in establishment of a self-renewing SSC pool and commitment to the spermatogenic lineage within progenitor spermatogonia.
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.
Project description:Continual spermatogenesis relies on the activities of a tissue-specific stem cell population referred to as spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). Fate decisions of stem cells are influenced by their niche environments, a major component of which is soluble factors secreted by support cells. At present, the factors that constitute the SSC niche are undefined. We explored the role of chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 12 (CXCL12) signaling via its receptor C-X-C chemokine receptor type 4 (CXCR4) in regulation of mouse SSC fate decisions. Immunofluorescent staining for CXCL12 protein in cross sections of testes from both pup and adult mice revealed its localization at the basement membrane of seminiferous tubules. Within the undifferentiated spermatogonial population of mouse testes, a fraction of cells were found to express CXCR4 and possess stem cell capacity. Inhibition of CXCR4 signaling in primary cultures of mouse undifferentiated spermatogonia resulted in SSC loss, in part by reducing proliferation and increasing the transition to a progenitor state primed for differentiation upon stimulation by retinoic acid. In addition, CXCL12-CXCR4 signaling in mouse SSCs was found to be important for colonization of recipient testes following transplantation, possibly by influencing homing to establish stem-cell niches. Furthermore, inhibition of CXCR4 signaling in testes of adult mice impaired SSC maintenance, leading to loss of the germline. Collectively, these findings indicate that CXCL12 is an important component of the growth factor milieu of stem cells in mammalian testes and that it signals via the CXCR4 to regulate maintenance of the SSC pool.
Project description:Spermatogenesis is the process by which spermatozoa are generated from spermatogonia. This cell population is heterogeneous, with self-renewing spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) and progenitor spermatogonia that will continue on a path of differentiation. Only SSCs have the ability to regenerate and sustain spermatogenesis. This makes the testis a good model to investigate stem cell biology. The Farnesoid X Receptor alpha (FXR?) was recently shown to be expressed in the testis. However, its global impact on germ cell homeostasis has not yet been studied. Here, using a phenotyping approach in Fxr?-/- mice, we describe unexpected roles of FXR? on germ cell physiology independent of its effects on somatic cells. FXR? helps establish and maintain an undifferentiated germ cell pool and in turn influences male fertility. FXR? regulates the expression of several pluripotency factors. Among these, in vitro approaches show that FXR? controls the expression of the pluripotency marker Lin28 in the germ cells.
Project description:Self-renewal and differentiation by spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) is the foundation for continual spermatogenesis. SSC self-renewal is dependent on glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF); however, intracellular mechanisms stimulated by GDNF in SSCs are unknown. To investigate these mechanisms we utilized a culture system that maintains a mouse undifferentiated germ cell population enriched for self-renewing SSCs. In these cultures mRNA for the transcription factors Bcl6b, Erm, and Lhx1 are up-regulated by GDNF and decreased in its absence. The expression of all three molecules was further identified in undifferentiated spermatogonia in vivo. Using small interfering RNA to reduce expression and transplantation to quantify stem cell numbers, Bcl6b, Erm, and Lhx1 were shown to be important for SSC maintenance in vitro. Next, GDNF was shown to activate both Akt and Src family kinase (SFK) signaling in SSCs, and culture of SSCs with inhibitors to Akt or SFKs followed by transplantation analysis showed significant impairment of SSC maintenance in vitro. Apoptosis analysis revealed a significant increase in the percentage of apoptotic cells when Akt, but not SFK, signaling was impaired, indicating that multiple signaling pathways are responsible for SSC self-renewal and survival. Biochemical and gene expression experiments revealed that GDNF up-regulated expression of Bcl6b, Erm, and Lhx1 transcripts is dependent on SFK signaling. Overall, these data demonstrate that GDNF up-regulation of Bcl6b, Erm, and Lhx1 expression through SFK signaling is a key component of the intracellular mechanism for SSC self-renewal.
Project description: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:In the murine testis, self-renewal of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) requires glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) secreted from neighboring somatic cells. However, it not clear how GDNF promotes self-renewal in vivo or what downstream signaling pathways are required for SSC maintenance. We found that GDNF is normally expressed cyclically during spermatogenesis. Stage-specific ectopic expression of GDNF caused the accumulation of a GFRA1+ LIN28- Asingle population, which has enhanced SSC activity compared with wild type, suggesting that GDNF normally limits self-renewal to specific stages. Despite the increase in SSC cell number, EdU labeling during steady-stage spermatogenesis, and during recovery after busulfan-mediated spermatogonial depletion, indicated that GDNF promotes self-renewal by blocking differentiation and not by promoting proliferation. Increased GDNF signaling led to increased phosphorylation of AKT3 in undifferentiated spermatogonia, but not of AKT1 or AKT2, and was independent of RPS6 phosphorylation, suggesting that AKT3 functions in SSC self-renewal or progenitor cell expansion.
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:Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) undergo self-renewal divisions to support spermatogenesis throughout life. Although several positive regulators of SSC self-renewal have been discovered, little is known about the negative regulators. Here, we report that F-box and WD-40 domain protein 7 (FBXW7), a component of the Skp1-Cullin-F-box-type ubiquitin ligase, is a negative regulator of SSC self-renewal. FBXW7 is expressed in undifferentiated spermatogonia in a cell cycle-dependent manner. Although peptidyl-prolyl cis/trans isomerase NIMA-interacting 1 (PIN1), essential for spermatogenesis, is thought to destroy FBXW7, Pin1 depletion decreased FBXW7 expression. Spermatogonial transplantation showed that Fbxw7 overexpression compromised SSC activity whereas Fbxw7 deficiency enhanced SSC colonization and caused accumulation of undifferentiated spermatogonia, suggesting that the level of FBXW7 is critical for self-renewal and differentiation. Screening of putative FBXW7 targets revealed that Fbxw7 deficiency up-regulated myelocytomatosis oncogene (MYC) and cyclin E1 (CCNE1). Although depletion of Myc/Mycn or Ccne1/Ccne2 compromised SSC activity, overexpression of Myc, but not Ccne1, increased colonization of SSCs. These results suggest that FBXW7 regulates SSC self-renewal in a negative manner by degradation of MYC.
Project description:Prospermatogonia transition to type A spermatogonia, which provide the source for the spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) pool. A percentage of these type A spermatogonia then differentiate to enter meiosis as spermatocytes by ?P10. It is currently unclear as to when these distinct populations are initially formed in the neonatal testis, and when the expression of markers both characteristic of and required for the adult undifferentiated and differentiating states is established. In this study, we compared expression of known spermatogonial cell fate markers during normal development and in response to the differentiation signal provided by retinoic acid (RA). We found that some markers for the undifferentiated state (ZBTB16/PLZF and CDH1) were expressed in nearly all spermatogonia from P1 through P7. In contrast, differentiation markers (STRA8 and KIT) appeared in a subset of spermatogonia at P4, coincident with the onset of RA signaling. GFRA1, which was present in nearly all prospermatogonia at P1, was only retained in STRA8/KIT- spermatogonia. From P4 through P10, there was a great deal of heterogeneity in the male germ cell population in terms of expression of markers, as markers characteristic of the undifferentiated (except GFRA1) and differentiating states were co-expressed through this interval. After P10, these fate markers diverged to mark distinct populations of undifferentiated and differentiating spermatogonia, and this pattern was maintained in juvenile (P18) and adult (P>60) testes. Taken together, these results reveal that the spermatogonia population is heterogeneous during the first wave of spermatogenesis, and indicate that neonatal spermatogonia may not serve as an ideal substitute for studying the function of adult spermatogonia.
Project description:In this study, we identify a novel and essential role for the Krüppel-like zinc finger transcription factor GLI-similar 3 (GLIS3) in the regulation of postnatal spermatogenesis. We show that GLIS3 is expressed in gonocytes, spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) and spermatogonial progenitors (SPCs), but not in differentiated spermatogonia and later stages of spermatogenesis or in somatic cells. Spermatogenesis is greatly impaired in GLIS3 knockout mice. Loss of GLIS3 function causes a moderate reduction in the number of gonocytes, but greatly affects the generation of SSCs/SPCs, and as a consequence the development of spermatocytes. Gene expression profiling demonstrated that the expression of genes associated with undifferentiated spermatogonia was dramatically decreased in GLIS3-deficient mice and that the cytoplasmic-to-nuclear translocation of FOXO1, which marks the gonocyte-to-SSC transition and is necessary for SSC self-renewal, is inhibited. These observations suggest that GLIS3 promotes the gonocyte-to-SSC transition and is a critical regulator of the dynamics of early postnatal spermatogenesis. Stem Cells 2016;34:2772-2783.