Peritubular myoid cells participate in male mouse spermatogonial stem cell maintenance.

PMID 25181385


Peritubular myoid (PM) cells surround the seminiferous tubule and together with Sertoli cells form the cellular boundary of the spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) niche. However, it remains unclear what role PM cells have in determining the microenvironment in the niche required for maintenance of the ability of SSCs to undergo self-renewal and differentiation into spermatogonia. Mice with a targeted disruption of the androgen receptor gene (Ar) in PM cells experienced a progressive loss of spermatogonia, suggesting that PM cells require testosterone (T) action to produce factors influencing SSC maintenance in the niche. Other studies showed that glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) is required for SSC self-renewal and differentiation of SSCs in vitro and in vivo. This led us to hypothesize that T-regulated GDNF expression by PM cells contributes to the maintenance of SSCs. This hypothesis was tested using an adult mouse PM cell primary culture system and germ cell transplantation. We found that T induced GDNF expression at the mRNA and protein levels in PM cells. Furthermore, when thymus cell antigen 1-positive spermatogonia isolated from neonatal mice were cocultured with PM cells with or without T and transplanted to the testes of germ cell-depleted mice, the number and length of transplant-derived colonies was increased considerably by in vitro T treatment. These results support the novel hypothesis that T-dependent regulation of GDNF expression in PM cells has a significant influence on the microenvironment of the niche and SSC maintenance.