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Sandeep Goel, Mayako Fujihara, Naojiro Minami, Masayasu Yamada and Hiroshi Imai

Gonocytes are primitive germ cells that are present in the neonatal testis and are committed to male germline development. Gonocytes differentiate to spermatogonia, which establish and maintain spermatogenesis in the postnatal testis. However, it is unknown whether large animal species have pluripotency-specific proteins in the testis. Nanog and Pou5f1 (Oct3/4) have been identified as transcription factors essential for maintaining pluripotency of embryonic stem cells in mice. Here, we show that NANOG protein was expressed in the germ cells of neonatal pig testes, but was progressively lost with age. NANOG was expressed in most of the lectin Dolichos biflorus agglutinin- and ZBTB16-positive gonocytes, which are known gonocyte-specific markers in pigs. NANOG was also expressed in Sertoli and interstitial cells of neonatal testes. Interestingly, POU5F1 expression was not detected at either the transcript or the protein level in neonatal pig testis. In the prepubertal testis, NANOG and POU5F1 proteins were primarily detected in differentiated germ cells, such as spermatocytes and spermatids, and rarely in undifferentiated spermatogonia. By using a testis transplantation assay, we found that germ cells from 2- to 4-day-old pigs could colonize and proliferate in the testes of the recipient mice, suggesting that primitive germ cells from neonatal pig testes have stem cell potential.

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Himesh Makala, Lavanya Pothana, Surabhi Sonam, Ashwini Malla and Sandeep Goel

Ectopic autografting of testis tissue is a promising approach for studying testicular development, male germline preservation and restoration of male fertility. In this study, we examined the fate of various testicular cells in adult mouse testes following ectopic autografting at 1, 2, 4 and 8 weeks post grafting. Histological examination showed no evidence of re-establishment of spermatogenesis in autografts, and progressive degeneration of seminiferous tubules was detected. Expression of germ cell-specific proteins such as POU5F1, DAZL, TNP1, TNP2, PRM1 and PRM2 revealed that, although proliferating and differentiating spermatogenic germ cells such as spermatogonia, spermatocytes and spermatids could survive in autografts until 4 weeks, only terminally differentiated germ cells such as sperm persisted in autografts until 8 weeks. The presence of Sertoli and peritubular myoid cells, as indicated by expression of WT1 and ACTA2 proteins, respectively, was evident in the autografts until 8 weeks. Interestingly, seminal vesicle weight and serum testosterone level were restored in autografted mice by 8 weeks post grafting. The expression of Leydig cell-specific proteins such as CYP11A1, HSD3B2 and LHCGR showed revival of Leydig cell (LC) populations in autografts over time since grafting. Elevated expression of PDGFRA, LIF, DHH and NEFH in autografts indicated de novo regeneration of LC populations. Autografted adult testis can be used as a model for investigating Leydig cell regeneration, steroidogenesis and regulation of the intrinsic factors involved in Leydig cell development. The success of this rodent model can have therapeutic applications for adult human males undergoing sterilizing cancer therapy.

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Niranjan Reddy, Ranjeet Singh Mahla, Revanth Thathi, Sanjay Kumar Suman, Jedy Jose and Sandeep Goel

Growth and development of immature testis xenograft from various domestic mammals has been shown in mouse recipients; however, buffalo testis xenografts have not been reported to date. In this study, small fragments of testis tissue from 8-week-old buffalo calves were implanted subcutaneously onto the back of immunodeficient male mouse recipients, which were either castrated or left intact (non-castrated). The xenografts were retrieved and analyzed 12 and 24 weeks later. The grafted tissue survived and grew in both types of recipient with a significant increase in weight and seminiferous tubule diameter. Recovery of grafts from intact recipients 24 weeks post-grafting was significantly lower than that from the castrated recipients. Seminal vesicle indices and serum testosterone levels were lower in castrated recipients at both collection time points in comparison to the intact recipients and non-grafted intact mouse controls. Pachytene spermatocytes were the most advanced germ cells observed in grafts recovered from castrated recipients 24 weeks post-grafting. Complete spermatogenesis, as indicated by the presence of elongated spermatids, was present only in grafts from intact recipients collected 24 weeks post-grafting. However, significant number of germ cells with DNA damage was also detected in these grafts as indicated by TUNEL assay. The complete germ cell differentiation in xenografts from intact recipients may be attributed to efficient Sertoli cell maturation. These results suggest that germ cell differentiation in buffalo testis xenograft can be completed by altering the recipient gonadal status.