DNA methylation and gene expression dynamics during spermatogonial stem cell differentiation in the early postnatal mouse testis.
ABSTRACT: In the male germline, neonatal prospermatogonia give rise to spermatogonia, which include stem cell population (undifferentiated spermatogonia) that supports continuous spermatogenesis in adults. Although the levels of DNA methyltransferases change dynamically in the neonatal and early postnatal male germ cells, detailed genome-wide DNA methylation profiles of these cells during the stem cell formation and differentiation have not been reported.To understand the regulation of spermatogonial stem cell formation and differentiation, we examined the DNA methylation and gene expression dynamics of male mouse germ cells at the critical stages: neonatal prospermatogonia, and early postntal (day 7) undifferentiated and differentiating spermatogonia. We found large partially methylated domains similar to those found in cancer cells and placenta in all these germ cells, and high levels of non-CG methylation and 5-hydroxymethylcytosines in neonatal prospermatogonia. Although the global CG methylation levels were stable in early postnatal male germ cells, and despite the reported scarcity of differential methylation in the adult spermatogonial stem cells, we identified many regions showing stage-specific differential methylation in and around genes important for stem cell function and spermatogenesis. These regions contained binding sites for specific transcription factors including the SOX family members.Our findings show a distinctive and dynamic regulation of DNA methylation during spermatogonial stem cell formation and differentiation in the neonatal and early postnatal testes. Furthermore, we revealed a unique accumulation and distribution of non-CG methylation and 5hmC marks in neonatal prospermatogonia. These findings contrast with the reported scarcity of differential methylation in adult spermatogonial stem cell differentiation and represent a unique phase of male germ cell development.
Project description:Histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9) methylation is dynamically regulated by methyltransferases and demethylases. In spermatogenesis, prospermatogonia differentiate into differentiating or undifferentiated spermatogonia after birth. However, the epigenetic regulation of prospermatogonia to spermatogonia transition is largely unknown. We found that perinatal prospermatogonia have extremely low levels of di-methylated H3K9 (H3K9me2) and that H3K9 demethylases, JMJD1A and JMJD1B, catalyze H3K9me2 demethylation in perinatal prospermatogonia. Depletion of JMJD1A and JMJD1B in the embryonic germline resulted in complete loss of male germ cells after puberty, indicating that H3K9me2 demethylation is essential for male germline maintenance. JMJD1A/JMJD1B-depleted germ cells were unable to differentiate into functional spermatogonia. JMJD1 isozymes contributed to activation of several spermatogonial stem cell maintenance genes through H3K9 demethylation during the prospermatogonia to spermatogonia transition, which we propose is key for spermatogonia development. In summary, JMJD1A/JMJD1B-mediated H3K9me2 demethylation promotes prospermatogonia to differentiate into functional spermatogonia by establishing proper gene expression profiles.
Project description:Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) are a subset of undifferentiated spermatogonia responsible for ongoing spermatogenesis in mammalian testes. Spermatogonial stem cells arise from morphologically homogeneous prospermatogonia, but growing evidence suggests that only a subset of prospermatogonia develops into the foundational SSC pool. This predicts that subtypes of undifferentiated spermatogonia with discrete mRNA and protein signatures should be distinguishable in neonatal testes. We used single-cell quantitative RT-PCR to examine mRNA levels of 172 genes in individual spermatogonia from 6-day postnatal (P6) mouse testes. Cells enriched from P6 testes using the StaPut or THY1(+) magnetic cell sorting methods exhibited considerable heterogeneity in the abundance of specific germ cell and stem cell mRNAs, segregating into one somatic and three distinct spermatogonial clusters. However, P6 Id4-eGFP(+) transgenic spermatogonia, which are known to be enriched for SSCs, were more homogeneous in their mRNA levels, exhibiting uniform levels for the majority of genes examined (122 of 172). Interestingly, these cells displayed nonuniform (50 of 172) expression of a smaller cohort of these genes, suggesting there is substantial heterogeneity even within the Id4-eGFP(+) population. Further, although immunofluorescence staining largely demonstrated conformity between mRNA and protein levels, some proteins were observed in patterns that were disparate from those detected for the corresponding mRNAs in Id4-eGFP(+) spermatogonia (e.g., Kit, Sohlh2, Stra8), suggesting additional heterogeneity is introduced at the posttranscriptional level. Taken together, these data demonstrate the existence of multiple spermatogonial subtypes in P6 mouse testes and raise the intriguing possibility that these subpopulations may correlate with the development of functionally distinct spermatogenic cell types.
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:Continuity, robustness, and regeneration of cell lineages relies on stem cell pools that are established during development. For the mammalian spermatogenic lineage, a foundational spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) pool arises from prospermatogonial precursors during neonatal life via mechanisms that remain undefined. Here, we mapped the kinetics of this process in vivo using a multi-transgenic reporter mouse model, in silico with single-cell RNA sequencing, and functionally with transplantation analyses to define the SSC trajectory from prospermatogonia. Outcomes revealed that a heterogeneous prospermatogonial population undergoes dynamic changes during late fetal and neonatal development. Differential transcriptome profiles predicted divergent developmental trajectories from fetal prospermatogonia to descendant postnatal spermatogonia. Furthermore, transplantation analyses demonstrated that a defined subset of fetal prospermatogonia is fated to function as SSCs. Collectively, these findings suggest that SSC fate is preprogrammed within a subset of fetal prospermatogonia prior to building of the foundational pool during early neonatal development.
Project description:In the mammalian testis, sustained spermatogenesis relies on spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs); their progeny either remain as stem cells (self-renewal) or proliferate and differentiate to enter meiosis in response to retinoic acid (RA). Here, we sought to uncover elusive mechanisms regulating a key switch fundamental to spermatogonial fate: the capacity of spermatogonia to respond to RA. Using the developing mouse testis as a model, we found that spermatogonia and precursor prospermatogonia exhibit a heterogeneous capacity to respond to RA with at least two underlying causes. First, progenitor spermatogonia are prevented from responding to RA by catabolic activity of cytochrome P450 family 26 enzymes. Second, a smaller subset of undifferentiated spermatogonia enriched for SSCs exhibit catabolism-independent RA insensitivity. Moreover, for the first time, we observed that precursor prospermatogonia are heterogeneous and comprise subpopulations that exhibit the same differential RA responsiveness found in neonatal spermatogonia. We propose a novel model by which mammalian prospermatogonial and spermatogonial fates are regulated by their intrinsic capacity to respond (or not) to the differentiation signal provided by RA before, and concurrent with, the initiation of spermatogenesis.
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:In mammals, most neonatal male germ cells (prospermatogonia) are quiescent and located in the center of the testis cords. In response to an unknown signal, prospermatogonia transition into spermatogonia, reenter the cell cycle, divide, and move to the periphery of the testis cords. In mice, these events occur by 3-4 days postpartum (dpp), which temporally coincides with the onset of retinoic acid (RA) signaling in the neonatal testis. RA has a pivotal role in initiating germ cell entry into meiosis in both sexes, yet little is known about the mechanisms and about cellular changes downstream of RA signaling. We examined the role of RA in mediating the prospermatogonia-to-spermatogonia transition in vivo and found 24 h of precocious RA exposure-induced germ cell changes mimicking those that occur during the endogenous transition at 3-4 dpp. These changes included: 1) spermatogonia proliferation; 2) maturation of cellular organelles; and 3), expression of markers characteristic of differentiating spermatogonia. We found that germ cell exposure to RA did not lead to cellular loss from apoptosis but rather resulted in a delay of ?2 days in their entry into meiosis. Taken together, our results indicate that exogenous RA induces multiple hallmarks of the transition of prospermatogonia to spermatogonia prior to their entry into meiosis.
Project description:Establishment of spermatogonia throughout the fetal and postnatal period is essential for production of spermatozoa and male fertility. Here, we establish a protocol for in vitro reconstitution of human prospermatogonial specification whereby human primordial germ cell (PGC)-like cells differentiated from human induced pluripotent stem cells are further induced into M-prospermatogonia-like cells and T1 prospermatogonia-like cells (T1LCs) using long-term cultured xenogeneic reconstituted testes. Single cell RNA-sequencing is used to delineate the lineage trajectory leading to T1LCs, which closely resemble human T1-prospermatogonia in vivo and exhibit gene expression related to spermatogenesis and diminished proliferation, a hallmark of quiescent T1 prospermatogonia. Notably, this system enables us to visualize the dynamic and stage-specific regulation of transposable elements during human prospermatogonial specification. Together, our findings pave the way for understanding and reconstructing human male germline development in vitro.
Project description:DNA methylation is a well-characterized epigenetic modification involved in gene regulation and transposon silencing in mammals. It mainly occurs on cytosines at CpG sites but methylation at non-CpG sites is frequently observed in embryonic stem cells, induced pluriotent stem cells, oocytes and the brain. The biological significance of non-CpG methylation is unknown. Here, we show that non-CpG methylation is also present in male germ cells, within and around B1 retrotransposon sequences interspersed in the mouse genome. It accumulates in mitotically arrested fetal prospermatogonia and reaches the highest level by birth in a Dnmt3l-dependent manner. The preferential site of non-CpG methylation is CpA, especially CpApG and CpApC. Although CpApG (and CpTpG) sites contain cytosines at symmetrical positions, hairpin-bisulfite sequencing reveals that they are hemimethylated, suggesting the absence of a template-dependent copying mechanism. Indeed, the level of non-CpG methylation decreases after the resumption of mitosis in the neonatal period, whereas that of CpG methylation does not. The cells eventually lose non-CpG methylation by the time they become spermatogonia. Our results show that non-CpG methylation accumulates in non-replicating, arrested cells but is not maintained in mitotically dividing cells during male germ-cell development.
Project description:Gonocyte-to-spermatogonia transition is a critical fate determination process to initiate sperm production throughout the lifecycle. However, the molecular dynamics of this process has not been fully elucidated mainly due to the asynchronized differentiation stages of neonatal germ cells. In this study, we employed single cell RNA sequencing analyses of P1.5-5.5 germ cells to clarify the temporal dynamics of gene expression during gonocyte-to-spermatogonia transition. The analyses identified transcriptional modules, one of which regulates spermatogonial gene network in neonatal germ cells. Among them, we identified Dec2, a bHLH-type transcription factor, as a transcriptional repressor for a spermatogonial differentiation factor Sohlh1. Deficiency of Dec2 in mice induces significant reduction of undifferentiated spermatogonia, and transplantation assay using Dec2-depleted cells also demonstrated the impaired efficiency of engraftment, suggesting its role in maintaining spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). Collectively, this study revealed the intrinsic role of a new SSC factor Dec2, which protects germ cells from inadequate differentiation during neonatal testis development.