Cyclical expression of GDNF is required for spermatogonial stem cell homeostasis.
ABSTRACT: 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:Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) are required for spermatogenesis. Earlier studies showed that glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) was indispensable for SSC self-renewal by binding to the GFRA1/RET receptor. Mice with mutations in these molecules showed impaired spermatogenesis, which was attributed to SSC depletion. Here we show that SSCs undergo GDNF-independent self-renewal. A small number of spermatogonia formed colonies when testis fragments from a Ret mutant mouse strain were transplanted into heterologous recipients. Moreover, fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) supplementation enabled in vitro SSC expansion without GDNF. Although GDNF-mediated self-renewal signaling required both AKT and MAP2K1/2, the latter was dispensable in FGF2-mediated self-renewal. FGF2-depleted testes exhibited increased levels of GDNF and were enriched for SSCs, suggesting that the balance between FGF2 and GDNF levels influences SSC self-renewal in vivo. Our results show that SSCs exhibit at least two modes of self-renewal and suggest complexity of SSC regulation in vivo.
Project description:The development of a stem cell culture system would expedite our understanding of the biology of tissue regeneration. Spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) is the foundation for lifelong male spermatogenesis and the SSC culture has been optimized continuously in recent years. However, there have been many inconveniences to reconstruct SSC self-renewal and proliferation in vitro, such as the frequent refreshment of recombinant cytokines, including GDNF, the essential growth factor for SSC maintenance. In the present study, we observed that both STO and MEF cells, which were previously used as feeders for SSC growth, did not express GDNF, but a GDNF-expressing STO feeder could support undifferentiated mouse spermatogonia propagation in vitro for three months without the refreshment of recombinant growth factor GDNF. The cell morphology, growth rate and SSC-associated gene expression remained identical to the SSCs cultured using previous methods. The transplantation of SSCs growing on these GDNF-expressing STO feeders could generate extensive colonies of spermatogenesis in recipient testes, functionally validating the stemness of these cells. Collectively, our data indicated that the further modification of feeder cells might facilitate the self-renewal and propagation of SSCs in vitro.
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:Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) provide the foundation for spermatogenesis throughout the life of a male. Because SSCs of many species can colonize the mouse testis, and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) is responsible for stimulating SSC self-renewal in rodents, we reasoned that molecular mechanisms of SSC self-renewal are similar across species. GDNF-regulated genes have been identified in mouse SSCs; however, downstream targets of GDNF are unknown in other species. The objective of this work was to identify GDNF-regulated genes in rat SSCs and to define the biological significance of these genes for rat SSC self-renewal. We conducted microarray analysis on cultured rat germ cells enriched for SSCs in the presence and absence of GDNF. Many GDNF-regulated genes were identified, most notably, Bcl6b and Etv5, which are important for mouse SSC self-renewal. Bcl6b was the most highly regulated gene in both the rat and mouse. Additionally, we identified three novel GDNF-regulated genes in rat SSCs: Bhlhe40, Hoxc4, and Tec. Small interfering RNA treatment for Bcl6b, Etv5, Bhlhe40, Hoxc4, and Tec resulted in a decrease in SSC number, as determined by transplantation, without a change in total cell number within the culture. These data indicate that, like in the mouse SSC, Bcl6b and Etv5 are important for rat SSC self-renewal, suggesting that these genes may be important for SSCs in all mammals. Furthermore, identification of three novel GDNF-regulated genes in the rat SSC extends our knowledge of SSC activity and broadens the foundation for understanding this process in higher species, including humans.
Project description:Spermatogenesis originates from self-renewal of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). Previous studies have reported conflicting roles of gonadotropic pituitary hormones in SSC self-renewal. Here, we explored the role of hormonal regulation of SSCs using Fshb and Lhcgr knockout (KO) mice. Although follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is thought to promote self-renewal by glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), no abnormalities were found in SSCs and their microenvironment. In contrast, SSCs were enriched in Lhcgr-deficient mice. Moreover, wild-type SSCs transplanted into Lhcgr-deficient mice showed enhanced self-renewal. Microarray analysis revealed that Lhcgr-deficient testes have enhanced WNT5A expression in Sertoli cells, which showed an immature phenotype. Since WNT5A was upregulated by anti-androgen treatment, testosterone produced by luteinizing hormone (LH) is required for Sertoli cell maturation. WNT5A promoted SSC activity both in vitro and in vivo. Therefore, FSH is not responsible for GDNF regulation, while LH negatively regulates SSC self-renewal by suppressing WNT5A via testosterone.
Project description:Maintenance of adult tissues depends on stem cell self-renewal in local niches. Spermatogonial stem cells (SSC) are germline adult stem cells necessary for spermatogenesis and fertility. We show that testicular endothelial cells (TECs) are part of the SSC niche producing glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and other factors to support human and mouse SSCs in long-term culture. We demonstrate that FGF-2 binding to FGFR1 on TECs activates the calcineurin pathway to produce GDNF. Comparison of the TEC secretome to lung and liver endothelial cells identified 5 factors sufficient for long-term maintenance of human and mouse SSC colonies in feeder-free cultures. Male cancer survivors after chemotherapy are often infertile since SSCs are highly susceptible to cytotoxic injury. Transplantation of TECs alone restores spermatogenesis in mice after chemotherapy-induced depletion of SSCs. Identifying TECs as a niche population necessary for SSC self-renewal may facilitate fertility preservation for prepubertal boys diagnosed with cancer.
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:Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) are the foundation for spermatogenesis and, thus, preservation of a species. Because of stem cell rarity, studying their self-renewal is greatly facilitated by in vitro culture of enriched biologically active cell populations. A recently developed culture method identified glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) as the essential growth factor that supports in vitro self-renewal of SSCs and results in an increase in their number. This system is a good model to study mechanisms of stem cell self-renewal because of the well defined culture conditions, enriched cell population, and available transplantation assay. By withdrawing and replacing GDNF in culture medium, we identified regulated expression of many genes by using microarray analysis. The expression levels of six of these genes were dramatically decreased by GDNF withdrawal and increased by GDNF replacement. To demonstrate the biological significance of the identified GDNF-regulated genes, we examined the importance of the most responsive of the six, bcl6b, a transcriptional repressor. By using siRNA to reduce transcript levels, Bcl6b was shown to be crucial for SSC maintenance in vitro. Moreover, evaluation of Bcl6b-null male testes revealed degeneration and/or absence of active spermatogenesis in 24 +/- 7% of seminiferous tubules. These data suggest that Bcl6b is an important molecule in SSC self-renewal and validate the biological relevance of the GDNF-regulated genes identified through microarray analysis. In addition, comparison of data generated in this study to other stem cell types suggests that self-renewal in SSCs is regulated by distinctly different molecular mechanisms.
Project description:Many commercial and household products such as lubricants, cosmetics, plastics, and paint contain phthalates, in particular bis-(2-ethyhexyl)-phthalate (DEHP). As a consequence, phthalates have been found in a number of locations and foods (streambeds, household dust, bottled water and dairy products). Epidemiological and animal studies analysing phthalate exposure in males provide evidence of degradation in sperm quality, associated to an increase in the incidence of genital birth defects and testicular cancers. In the testis, spermatogenesis is maintained throughout life by a small number of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) that self-renew or differentiate to produce adequate numbers of spermatozoa. Disruption or alteration of SSC self-renewal induce decreased sperm count and sperm quality, or may potentially lead to testicular cancer. GDNF, or glial cell-line-derived neurotrophic factor, is a growth factor that is essential for the self-renewal of SSCs and continuous spermatogenesis. In the present study, the SSC-derived cell line C18-4 was used as a model for preliminary assessment of the effects of mono-(2-ethylhexyl)-phthalate (MEHP, main metabolite of DEHP) on spermatogonial stem cells. Our data demonstrate that MEHP disrupts one of the known GDNF signalling pathways in these cells. MEHP induced a decrease of C18-4 cell viability in a time- and dose-dependent manner, as well as a disruption of ERK1/2 activation but not of SRC signalling. As a result, we observed a decrease of expression of the transcription factor FOS, which is downstream of the GDNF/ERK1/2 axis in these cells. Taken together, our data suggest that MEHP exposure affects SSC proliferation through inhibition of specific signalling molecules.
Project description:Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) undergo self-renewal division to support spermatogenesis. Although several positive regulators of SSC self-renewal have been identified, little is known about the mechanisms that negatively regulate SSCs. Here we developed a novel transplantation assay for SSCs and demonstrate that p21 and p27 cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors play critical roles in SSC self-renewal and differentiation. Overexpression of p21 or p27 abrogated proliferation of cultured SSCs in vitro, and their expression levels were downregulated by exogenous self-renewal signals. In contrast, no apparent defects were found in p21 or p27-deficient SSCs by spermatogonial transplantation. However, competitive spermatogonial transplantation with WT SSCs revealed that the loss of either gene causes distortion of germline transmission: p21-deficiency facilitated mutant offspring production, whereas germline transmission was limited by p27-deficiency. Serial transplantation also showed that the loss of p27, but not p21, decreases secondary colony formation, suggesting that appropriate amounts of p27 are necessary for sustaining SSC self-renewal. Thus, p21 and p27 cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors play critical roles in germline transmission by regulating the balance between SSC self-renewal and differentiation, and competitive spermatogonial transplantation technique will be useful for analyzing subtle defects in spermatogenesis that are not evident by traditional spermatogonial transplantation.