General and comparative endocrinology

Immunoexpression of aromatase and estrogen receptors β in stem spermatogonia of bullfrogs indicates a role of estrogen in the seasonal spermatogonial mitotic activity.

PMID 23247274


Bullfrog stem spermatogonia, also named primordial germ cells (PGCs), show strong testosterone immunolabeling in winter, but no or weak testosterone immunoexpression in summer. Thus, the role of testosterone in these cells needs to be clarified. In this study, we proposed to evaluate whether PGCs express aromatase and estrogen receptors, and verify a possible role of estrogen in PGCs seasonal proliferation. Testes of male adult bullfrogs, collected in winter (WG) and summer (SG), were fixed and embedded in historesin, for quantitative analysis, or paraffin for immunohistochemistry (IHC). The number of haematoxylin/eosin stained PGCs/lobular area was obtained. Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), aromatase, estrogen receptor β (ERβ) and PCNA/ERβ double immunolabeling were detected by IHC. The number of PCNA-positive PGCs and the histological score (HSCORE) of aromatase and ERβ immunolabeled PGCs were obtained. Although the number of PGCs increased significantly in WG, a high number of PCNA-positive PGCs was observed in summer. Moreover, aromatase and ERβ HSCORE was higher in SG than WG. The results indicate that PGCs express a seasonal proliferative activity; the low mitotic activity in winter is related to the maximal limit of germ cells which can be supported in the large lobules. In SG, the increased ERβ and aromatase HSCORE suggests that testosterone is converted into estrogen from winter to summer. Moreover, the parallelism between the high PGCs mitotic activity and ERβ immunoexpression suggest a participation of estrogen in the control of the PGCs seasonal proliferative activity which guarantee the formation of new germ cysts from summer to next autumn.