Human spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) are an essential source to maintain spermatogenesis as an efficient process for daily sperm production with high self-renewal capacity along adulthood. However, the phenotype and the subpopulation that represent the real reserve SSC for the human testis remain unknown. Moreover, although SSC markers have been described for undifferentiated spermatogonia (Adark and Apale), the existence of a specific subtype that could be identified as the actual/true SSC has not yet been fully determined. Herein we evaluated spermatogonial morphology, kinetics, positioning regarding blood vasculature in relation to protein expression (UTF1, GFRA1, and KIT) as well as proliferative activity (MCM7) and identified a small subpopulation of Adark with nuclear rarefaction zone (AdVac) that behaves as the human reserve SSC. We show that AdVac is the smallest human spermatogonial population (10%), staying quiescent (89%) and positioned close to blood vessels throughout most of the stages of the seminiferous epithelium cycle (SEC) and divides only at stages I and II. Within this AdVac population, we found a smaller pool (2% of A undifferentiated spermatogonia) of entirely quiescent cells exhibiting a high expression of UTF1 and lacking GFRA1. This finding suggests them as the real human reserve SSC (AdVac UTF1+/GFRA1-/MCM7-). Additionally, Adark without nuclear vacuole (AdNoVac) and Apale have similar kinetic and high proliferative capacity throughout the SEC (47%), indicating that they are actively dividing undifferentiated spermatogonia. Identification of human stem cells with evident reserve SSC functionality may help further studies intending to sort SSCs to treat male diseases and infertility.
A L Caldeira-Brant, L M Martinelli, M M Marques, A B Reis, R Martello, F R C L Almeida and H Chiarini-Garcia
C A Rezende-Melo, A L Caldeira-Brant, A L Drumond-Bock, G M Buchold, G Shetty, F R C L Almeida, M M Matzuk, K Hara, S Yoshida, M L Meistrich and H Chiarini-Garcia
The existence of cytoplasmic passages between germ cells and their potential function in the control of the spermatogenic process has long been an intriguing question. Evidence of the important role of such structures, known as intercellular bridges (ICB), in spermatogenesis has been implicated by the failure of spermatogenesis in testis-expressed gene 14 (Tex14) mutant mice, which lack the ICBs, to progress past the pachytene spermatocyte stage. Using these Tex14 mutants, the present study evaluated, for the first time, the behavior and synchrony of the spermatogonial lineage in the absence of ICBs. Our data suggest that the absence of these cytoplasmic connections between cells affects the expansion of the undifferentiated type A (Aundiff) spermatogonia compartment and their transition to A1, resulting in a significant numerical reduction of differentiating A1 spermatogonia, but did not interfere with cell amplification during subsequent mitotic steps of differentiating spermatogonia from A1 through intermediate (In). However, beginning at the type B spermatogonia, the synchrony of differentiation was impaired as some cells showed delayed differentiation compared to their behavior in a normal seminiferous epithelium cycle. Thus although spermatogonial development is able to proceed, in the absence of ICBs in Tex14−/ − mutants, the yield of cells, specific steps of differentiation, the synchrony of the cell kinetics, and the subsequent progression in meiosis are quantitatively lower than normal.