Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) maintain spermatogenesis throughout the reproductive life of mammals. While Asingle spermatogonia comprise the rodent SSC pool, the identity of the stem cell pool in the primate spermatogenic lineage is not well established. The prevailing model is that primate spermatogenesis arises from Adark and Apale spermatogonia, which are considered to represent reserve and active stem cells respectively. However, there is limited information about how the Adark and Apale descriptions of nuclear morphology correlate with the clonal (Asingle, Apaired, and Aaligned), molecular (e.g. GFRα1 (GFRA1) and PLZF), and functional (SSC transplantation) descriptions of rodent SSCs. Thus, there is a need to investigate primate SSCs using criteria, tools, and approaches that have been used to investigate rodent SSCs over the past two decades. SSCs have potential clinical application for treating some cases of male infertility, providing impetus for characterizing and learning to manipulate these adult tissue stem cells in primates (nonhuman and human). This review recounts the development of a xenotransplant assay for functional identification of primate SSCs and progress dissecting the molecular and clonal characteristics of the primate spermatogenic lineage. These observations highlight the similarities and potential differences between rodents and primates regarding the SSC pool and the kinetics of spermatogonial self-renewal and clonal expansion. With new tools and reagents for studying primate spermatogonia, the field is poised to develop and test new hypotheses about the biology and regenerative capacity of primate SSCs.
Brian P Hermann, Meena Sukhwani, Marc C Hansel, and Kyle E Orwig
Shinnosuke Suzuki, John R McCarrey, and Brian P Hermann
Initiation of spermatogonial differentiation in the mouse testis begins with the response to retinoic acid (RA) characterized by activation of KIT and STRA8 expression. In the adult, spermatogonial differentiation is spatiotemporally coordinated by a pulse of RA every 8.6 days that is localized to stages VII–VIII of the seminiferous epithelial cycle. Dogmatically, progenitor spermatogonia that express retinoic acid receptor gamma (RARG) at these stages will differentiate in response to RA, but this has yet to be tested functionally. Previous single-cell RNA-seq data identified phenotypically and functionally distinct subsets of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) and progenitor spermatogonia, where late progenitor spermatogonia were defined by expression of RARG and Dppa3. Here, we found late progenitor spermatogonia (RARGhigh KIT−) were further divisible into two subpopulations based on Dppa3 reporter expression (Dppa3-ECFP or Dppa3-EGFP) and were observed across all stages of the seminiferous epithelial cycle. However, nearly all Dppa3+ spermatogonia were differentiating (KIT+) late in the seminiferous epithelial cycle (stages X–XII), while Dppa3− late progenitors remained abundant, suggesting that Dppa3+ and Dppa3− late progenitors differentially responded to RA. Following acute RA treatment (2–4 h), significantly more Dppa3+ late progenitors induced KIT, including at the midpoint of the cycle (stages VI–IX), than Dppa3− late progenitors. Subsequently, single-cell analyses indicated a subset of Dppa3+ late progenitors expressed higher levels of Rxra, which we confirmed by RXRA whole-mount immunostaining. Together, these results indicate RARG alone is insufficient to initiate a spermatogonial response to RA in the adult mouse testis and suggest differential RXRA expression may discriminate responding cells.