FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

The histone demethylase KDM1A is essential for the maintenance and differentiation of spermatogonial stem cells and progenitors.

PMID 26243864


Little is known of the fundamental processes governed by epigenetic mechanisms in the supplier cells of spermatogenesis, the spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). The histone H3 lysine demethylase KDM1A is expressed in spermatogonia. We hypothesized that KDM1A serves in transcriptional regulation of SSCs and fertility. Using a conditional deletion of Kdm1a [conditional knockout (cKO)] in mouse spermatogonia, we determined that Kdm1a is essential for spermatogenesis as adult cKO males completely lack germ cells. Analysis of postnatal testis development revealed that undifferentiated and differentiating spermatogonial populations form in Kdm1a-cKO animals, yet the majority fail to enter meiosis. Loss of germ cells in the cKO was rapid with none remaining by postnatal day (PND) 21. To gain insight into the mechanistic implications of Kdm1a ablation, we isolated PND 6 spermatogonia enriched for SSCs and analyzed their transcriptome by RNA sequencing. Loss of Kdm1a was associated with altered transcription of 1206 genes. Importantly, differentially expressed genes between control and Kdm1a-cKO animals included those that are essential for SSC and progenitor maintenance and spermatogonial differentiation. The complete loss of fertility and failure to establish spermatogenesis indicate that Kdm1a is a master controller of gene transcription in spermatogonia and is required for SSC and progenitor maintenance and differentiation.