Reproduction is the sine qua non for the propagation of species and continuation of life. It is a complex biological process that is regulated by multiple factors during the reproductive life of an organism. Over the past decade, the molecular mechanisms regulating reproduction in mammals have been rapidly unraveled by the study of a vast number of mouse gene knockouts with impaired fertility. The use of reverse genetics to generate null mutants in mice through targeted disruption of specific genes has enabled researchers to identify essential regulators of spermatogenesis and oogenesis in vivo and model human disorders affecting reproduction. This review focuses on the merits, utility, and the variations of the knockout technology in studies of reproduction in mammals.
Angshumoy Roy and Martin M Matzuk
S-Y Lin, J R Morrison, M M Matzuk and D M de Kretser
It has been proposed that follistatin can modulate the actions of activins and/or other members of the transforming growth factor-β superfamily of proteins on testicular function, since mice overexpressing follistatin showed spermatogenic disruption. However, since mice with targeted disruption of the follistatin gene die soon after birth, it is not feasible to determine the effect of the absence of follistatin on testicular function using this model. To further understand the role of follistatin on the development and maintenance of spermatogenesis, fetal testes, collected by Caesarean section at day 18 of gestation from follistatin null mice, were transplanted to the external ear of castrated recombination activating gene 1 immunocompromised male mice. The testicular grafts were then analysed 7–8 weeks after transplantation and showed that full spermatogenesis developed in both the testes of wild-type and follistatin null mice. This study indicates that, if follistatin is required to modulate spermatogenic development, it is not supplied by local testicular production but by circulating follistatin from the host mouse.
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.