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Biol Reprod. 1998 Aug;59(2):379-87.

Meiotic differentiation of germinal cells in three-week cultures of whole cell population from rat seminiferous tubules.

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  • 1INRA PRMD, 37380 Nouzilly, France.


The aim of the present study was to set up a culture system allowing most of the meiotic phase of rat spermatogenesis to occur in vitro. For that purpose, the differentiation of spermatogenic cells was monitored by three criteria: 1) examination of expression of genes specifically expressed at a high level in pachytene spermatocytes (the phosphoprotein p19 [p19] and the testis-specific histone TH2B) or in round spermatids (transition protein 1 [TP1] and transition protein 2 [TP2]) by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR); 2) ploidy analysis; and 3) cytological and immunocytochemical study of the germ cells. In the first trial, we determined the changes in the ratios of p19:TP1 and TH2B:TP2 mRNA-related PCR products in the whole testis of rats between 18 and 60 days postpartum and related those results to the sequential appearance of the various types of spermatogenic cells during that period. In the second trial, our aim was to reproduce, in a culture system using seminiferous tubules from 23- to 25-day-old rats, the changes observed in vivo. The p19:TP1 and TH2B:TP2 ratios decreased dramatically in testicular extracts of rats between 32 and 40 days postpartum, i.e., at the time period during which round spermatids become more and more numerous in the testis. When seminiferous tubules were seeded in bicameral chambers, cell viability remained close to 70% of total cells throughout the 3-wk culture period. Both p19:TP1 and TH2B:TP2 ratios decreased during the first week of culture. This was attributable to a decrease in the levels of p19 and TH2B mRNAs and also to an enhancement in the relative amounts of TP1 and TP2. These changes were correlated with the appearance of a 1C cell population in the culture. Histological examination of the culture demonstrated that under the conditions of the present study, 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine-labeled pachytene spermatocytes of stages IV-VI were able to differentiate into secondary spermatocytes, then into round spermatids.

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