PloS one

Identification and characterization of germ cell genes expressed in the F9 testicular teratoma stem cell line.

PMID 25153150


The F9 cell line, which was derived from a mouse testicular teratoma that originated from pluripotent germ cells, has been used as a model for differentiation. However, it is largely unknown whether F9 cells possess the characteristics of male germ cells. In the present study, we investigated spermatogenic stage- and cell type-specific gene expression in F9 cells. Analysis of previous microarray data showed that a large number of stage-regulated germ cell genes are expressed in F9 cells. Specifically, genes that are prominently expressed in spermatogonia and have transcriptional regulatory functions appear to be enriched in F9 cells. Our in silico and in vitro analyses identified several germ cell-specific or -predominant genes that are expressed in F9 cells. Among them, strong promoter activities were observed in the regions upstream of the spermatogonial genes, Dmrt1 (doublesex and mab-3 related transcription factor 1), Stra8 (stimulated by retinoic acid gene 8) and Tex13 (testis expressed gene 13), in F9 cells. A detailed analysis of the Tex13 promoter allowed us to identify an enhancer and a region that is implicated in germ cell-specificity. We also found that Tex13 expression is regulated by DNA methylation. Finally, analysis of GFP (green fluorescent protein) TEX13 localization revealed that the protein distributes heterogeneously in the cytoplasm and nucleus, suggesting that TEX13 shuttles between these two compartments. Taken together, our results demonstrate that F9 cells express numerous spermatogonial genes and could be used for transcriptional studies focusing on such genes. As an example of this, we use F9 cells to provide comprehensive expressional information about Tex13, and report that this gene appears to encode a germ cell-specific protein that functions in the nucleus during early spermatogenesis.