Spermatogonial depletion in adult Pin1-deficient mice.
Spermatogonia in the mouse testis arise from early postnatal gonocytes that are derived from primordial germ cells (PGCs) during embryonic development. The proliferation, self-renewal, and differentiation of spermatogonial stem cells provide the basis for the continuing integrity of spermatogenesis. We previously reported that Pin1-deficient embryos had a profoundly reduced number of PGCs and that Pin1 was critical to ensure appropriate proliferation of PGCs. The current investigation aimed to elucidate the function of Pin1 in postnatal germ cell development by analyzing spermatogenesis in adult Pin1-/- mice. Although Pin1 was ubiquitously expressed in the adult testis, we found it to be most highly expressed in spermatogonia and Sertoli cells. Correspondingly, we show here that Pin1 plays an essential role in maintaining spermatogonia in the adult testis. Germ cells in postnatal Pin1-/- testis were able to initiate and complete spermatogenesis, culminated by production of mature spermatozoa. However, there was a progressive and age-dependent degeneration of the spermatogenic cells in Pin1-/- testis that led to complete germ cell loss by 14 mo of age. This depletion of germ cells was not due to increased cell apoptosis. Rather, detailed analysis of the seminiferous tubules using a germ cell-specific marker revealed that depletion of spermatogonia was the first step in the degenerative process and led to disruption of spermatogenesis, which resulted in eventual tubule degeneration. These results reveal that the presence of Pin1 is required to regulate proliferation and/or cell fate of undifferentiated spermatogonia in the adult mouse testis.
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