Testicular Architecture Is Critical for Mediation of Retinoic Acid Responsiveness by Undifferentiated Spermatogonial Subtypes in the Mouse.
ABSTRACT: 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: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: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:Precise separation of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) from progenitor spermatogonia that lack stem cell activity and are committed to differentiation remains a challenge. To distinguish between these spermatogonial subtypes, we identified genes that exhibited bimodal mRNA levels at the single-cell level among undifferentiated spermatogonia from Postnatal Day 6 mouse testes, including Tspan8, Epha2, and Pvr, each of which encode cell surface proteins useful for cell selection. Transplantation studies provided definitive evidence that a TSPAN8-high subpopulation is enriched for SSCs. RNA-seq analyses identified genes differentially expressed between TSPAN8-high and -low subpopulations that clustered into multiple biological pathways potentially involved in SSC renewal or differentiation, respectively. Methyl-seq analysis identified hypomethylated domains in the promoters of these genes in both subpopulations that colocalized with peaks of histone modifications defined by ChIP-seq analysis. Taken together, these results demonstrate functional heterogeneity among mouse undifferentiated spermatogonia and point to key biological characteristics that distinguish SSCs from progenitor spermatogonia.
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:The spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) compartment is maintained by self-renewal of stem cells as well as fragmentation of differentiating spermatogonia through abscission of intercellular bridges in a random and stochastic manner. The molecular mechanisms that regulate this reversible developmental lineage remain to be elucidated. Here, we show that histone H3K27 demethylase, JMJD3 (KDM6B), regulates the fragmentation of spermatogonial cysts. Down-regulation of Jmjd3 in SSCs promotes an increase in undifferentiated spermatogonia but does not affect their differentiation. Germ cell-specific Jmjd3 null male mice have larger testes and sire offspring for a longer period compared to controls, likely secondary to increased and prolonged maintenance of the spermatogonial compartment. Moreover, JMJD3 deficiency induces frequent fragmentation of spermatogonial cysts by abscission of intercellular bridges. These results suggest that JMJD3 controls the spermatogonial compartment through the regulation of fragmentation of spermatogonial cysts and this mechanism may be involved in maintenance of diverse stem cell niches.
Project description:Retinoic acid (RA) directs the sequential, but distinct, programs of spermatogonial differentiation and meiotic differentiation that are both essential for the generation of functional spermatozoa. These processes are functionally and temporally decoupled, as they occur in distinct cell types that arise over a week apart, both in the neonatal and adult testis. However, our understanding is limited in terms of what cellular and molecular changes occur downstream of RA exposure that prepare differentiating spermatogonia for meiotic initiation. In this review, we describe the process of spermatogonial differentiation and summarize the current state of knowledge regarding RA signaling in spermatogonia.
Project description:Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) both self-renew and give rise to progenitors that initiate spermatogenic differentiation in the mammalian testis. Questions remain regarding the extent to which the SSC and progenitor states are functionally distinct. Here we provide the first multiparametric integrative analysis of mammalian germ cell epigenomes comparable with that done for >100 somatic cell types by the ENCODE Project. Differentially expressed genes distinguishing SSC- and progenitor-enriched spermatogonia showed distinct histone modification patterns, particularly for H3K27ac and H3K27me3. Motif analysis predicted transcription factors that may regulate spermatogonial subtype-specific fate, and immunohistochemistry and gene-specific chromatin immunoprecipitation analyses confirmed subtype-specific differences in target gene binding of a subset of these factors. Taken together, these results show that SSCs and progenitors display distinct epigenetic profiling consistent with these spermatogonial subtypes being differentially programmed to either self-renew and maintain regenerative capacity as SSCs or lose regenerative capacity and initiate lineage commitment as progenitors.
Project description:To characterize the molecular phenotype of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), we examined genes that are differentially expressed in the stem/progenitor spermatogonia compared to nonstem spermatogonia. We isolated type A spermatogonia (stem and nonstem type A) from 6-day-old mice using sedimentation velocity at unit gravity and further selected the stem/progenitor cell subpopulation by magnetic activated cell sorting with an antibody to GDNF-receptor-alpha-1 (GFRA1). It has been previously shown that GFRA1 is expressed in SSCs and is required for their stemness. The purity of the isolated cells was approximately 95% to 99% as indicated by immunocytochemistry using anti-GFRA1. Comparison of GFRA1-positive and GFRA1-negative spermatogonia by microarray analysis revealed 99 known genes and 12 uncharacterized transcripts that are overexpressed in the former cell population with a >2-fold change. Interestingly, the highest level of overexpression was observed for Csf1r, encoding the receptor for macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF, official symbol CSF1), which has a well-established role in the regulation of myeloid progenitor cells. Analysis of our microarray data with a bioinformatics software program (Ingenuity Systems) revealed the potential role of various signaling pathways in stem/progenitor spermatogonia and suggested a common pathway for GFRA1 and CSF1R that may lead to their proliferation. Further investigation to test this hypothesis has shown that CSF1 promotes cell proliferation in primary cultures of the isolated type A spermatogonia and in the spermatogonial-derived stem cell line C18-4. Semiquantitative RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry confirmed the previously mentioned microarray data. Collectively, this study provides novel molecular signatures for stem/progenitor spermatogonia and demonstrates a role for CSF1/CSF1R signaling in regulating their proliferation.
Project description:A bioenergetic balance between glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration is particularly important for stem cell fate specification. It however remains to be determined whether undifferentiated spermatogonia switch their preference for bioenergy production during differentiation. In this study, we found that ATP generation in spermatogonia was gradually increased upon retinoic acid (RA)-induced differentiation. To accommodate this elevated energy demand, RA signaling concomitantly switched ATP production in spermatogonia from glycolysis to mitochondrial respiration, accompanied by increased levels of reactive oxygen species. Disrupting mitochondrial respiration significantly blocked spermatogonial differentiation. Inhibition of glucose conversion to glucose-6-phosphate or pentose phosphate pathway also repressed the formation of c-Kit+ differentiating germ cells, suggesting that metabolites produced from glycolysis are required for spermatogonial differentiation. We further demonstrated that the expression levels of several metabolic regulators and enzymes were significantly altered upon RA-induced differentiation, with both RNA-seq and quantitative proteomic analyses. Taken together, our data unveil a critically regulated bioenergetic balance between glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration that is required for spermatogonial proliferation and differentiation.
Project description:Impaired biogenesis of microRNAs disrupts spermatogenesis and leads to infertility in male mice. Spermatogonial differentiation is a key step in spermatogenesis, yet the mechanisms that control this event remain poorly defined. In this study, we discovered microRNA 146 (Mir146) to be highly regulated during spermatogonial differentiation, a process dependent on retinoic acid (RA) signaling. Mir146 transcript levels were diminished nearly 180-fold in differentiating spermatogonia when compared with undifferentiated spermatogonia. Luciferase assays revealed the direct binding of Mir146 to the 3' untranslated region of the mediator complex subunit 1 (Med1), a coregulator of retinoid receptors (RARs and RXRs). Overexpression of Mir146 in cultured undifferentiated spermatogonia reduced Med1 transcript levels, as well as those of differentiation marker kit oncogene (Kit). MED1 protein was also diminished. Conversely, inhibition of Mir146 increased the levels of Kit. When undifferentiated spermatogonia were exposed to RA, Mir146 was downregulated along with a marker for undifferentiated germ cells, zinc finger and BTB domain containing 16 (Zbtb16; Plzf); Kit was upregulated. Overexpression of Mir146 in RA-treated spermatogonia inhibited the upregulation of Kit, stimulated by retinoic acid gene 8 (Stra8), and spermatogenesis- and oogenesis-specific basic helix-loop-helix 2 (Sohlh2). Inhibition of Mir146 in RA-treated spermatogonia greatly enhanced the upregulation of these genes. We conclude that Mir146 modulates the effects of RA on spermatogonial differentiation.