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G Livera, V Rouiller-Fabre, C Pairault, C Levacher, and R Habert

In addition to playing a fundamental role in very diverse processes such as vision and the growth and differentiation of numerous types of cell, vitamin A (retinol) and its principal biologically active derivative, retinoic acid, are clearly involved in the regulation of testicular functions in rodents. An excess of vitamin A leads to testicular lesions and spermatogenetic disorders, and a deficiency induces early cessation of spermatogenesis and adversely affects testosterone secretion. Furthermore, mice mutant for retinoic acid alpha receptors and retinoid X beta receptors are sterile. Retinoids appear to exert an action on the three main testicular types of cell (Sertoli, germinal and Leydig cells), as they act on the signalling pathways and Sertoli cell metabolism, and modify numerous factors secreted in Sertoli cells. Retinoids also appear to be necessary for the proliferation and differentiation of A spermatogonia, and for spermiogenesis. In addition, vitamin A deficiency leads to atrophy of the accessory sex organs after decreased testosterone production. Recent studies have shown that retinoids already affect these three types of cell in fetuses. Curiously, the effects of retinoids on fetal and adult testis seem opposed.

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A Forand, S Messiaen, R Habert, and J Bernardino-Sgherri

The first round of mouse spermatogenesis begins from 3 to 4 days after birth through differentiation of gonocytes into spermatogonial-stem cells and type A spermatogonia. Consequently, this step of differentiation may determine generation of the original population of stem cells and the fertility potential of the adult mouse. We aimed to determine the effect of perinatal exposure to ionizing radiation on the testis at the end of the first wave of spermatogenesis and at sexual maturity. Our results show that, radiation sensitivity of the testis substantially decreases from late foetal life to the end of the first week after birth. In addition, partial or full recovery from radiation induced testicular weight loss occurred between the first round of spermatogenesis and sexual maturity, and this was associated with the stimulation of spermatogonial proliferation. Exposure of mice at 17.5 days after conception or at 1 day after birth to γ-rays decreased the sperm counts at sexual maturity, while exposure of 8 day-old mice had no effect. This suggests that irradiation of late foetal or early neonatal testes has a direct impact on the generation of the neonatal spermatogonial-stem cell pool.