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Parag A Parekh, Thomas X Garcia and Marie-Claude Hofmann

Sertoli cells regulate male germ cell proliferation and differentiation and are a critical component of the spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) niche, where homeostasis is maintained by the interplay of several signaling pathways and growth factors. These factors are secreted by Sertoli cells located within the seminiferous epithelium, and by interstitial cells residing between the seminiferous tubules. Sertoli cells and peritubular myoid cells produce glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), which binds to the RET/GFRA1 receptor complex at the surface of undifferentiated spermatogonia. GDNF is known for its ability to drive SSC self-renewal and proliferation of their direct cell progeny. Even though the effects of GDNF are well studied, our understanding of the regulation its expression is still limited. The purpose of this review is to discuss how GDNF expression in Sertoli cells is modulated within the niche, and how these mechanisms impact germ cell homeostasis.

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Maria Kokkinaki, Tin-Lap Lee, Zuping He, Jiji Jiang, Nady Golestaneh, Marie-Claude Hofmann, Wai-Yee Chan and Martin Dym

Spermatogenesis in man starts with spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), and leads to the production of sperm in ∼64 days, common to old and young men. Sperm from elderly men are functional and able to fertilize eggs and produce offspring, even though daily sperm production is more than 50% lower and damage to sperm DNA is significantly higher in older men than in those who are younger. Our hypothesis is that the SSC/spermatogonial progenitors themselves age. To test this hypothesis, we studied the gene expression profile of mouse SSC/progenitor cells at several ages using microarrays. After sequential enzyme dispersion, we purified the SSC/progenitors with immunomagnetic cell sorting using an antibody to GFRA1, a known SSC/progenitor cell marker. RNA was isolated and used for the in vitro synthesis of amplified and labeled cRNAs that were hybridized to the Affymetrix mouse genome microarrays. The experiments were repeated twice with different cell preparations, and statistically significant results are presented. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis was used to confirm the microarray results. Comparison of four age groups (6 days, 21 days, 60 days, and 8 months old) showed a number of genes that were expressed specifically in the older mice. Two of them (i.e. Icam1 and Selp) have also been shown to mark aging hematopoietic stem cells. On the other hand, the expression levels of the genes encoding the SSC markers Gfra1 and Plzf did not seem to be significantly altered by age, indicating that age affects only certain SSC/progenitor properties.