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J Androl. 2003 May-Jun;24(3):332-42.

Evidence for a role of glycogen synthase kinase-3 beta in rodent spermatogenesis.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and Research and Education Institute, Torrance, California 90509, USA.


Glycogen synthase kinase-3 beta (GSK-3 beta) regulates cell metabolism, cell cycle, and cell fate through the phosphorylation of a diverse array of substrates. Herein, we provide evidence that supports a role for GSK-3 in mammalian meiosis and spermatogenesis. Immunostaining of testis sections showed that while GSK-3 alpha was ubiquitous in the seminiferous tubules, GSK-3 beta was expressed in premeiotic type B spermatogonia, in both meiotic preleptotene and leptotene spermatocytes, as well as in Sertoli cells in both the mouse and rat. Thus, GSK-3 beta is expressed in germ cells entering meiosis. In addition, intense immunoreactivity was detected in rat step 6 though 11 spermatids. In situ hybridization (ISH) in rat testis confirmed the immunostaining pattern in leptotene and spermatids and showed a GSK-3 beta messenger RNA (mRNA) signal in some pachytene spermatocytes. The restricted pattern of expression suggests cell-specific regulation of Gsk-3 beta mRNA. To determine whether GSK-3 is required for meiosis entry, rat stage VIIa seminiferous tubule segments were cultured with selective small-molecule GSK-3 inhibitors. These compounds markedly and dose-dependently suppressed meiotic synthesis (S)-phase DNA. Since a yeast GSK-3 homolog, Rim11p (regulator of inducer of meiosis), is pivotal to meiosis entry, we tested whether GSK-3 beta complements Rim11p function in meiosis. Rim11p phosphorylates transcription factors Ume6p (unscheduled meiotic gene expression) and Ime1p (inducer of meiosis) to induce meiosis entry. Overexpression of murine GSK-3 beta in a rim11 mutant yeast failed to rescue the sporulation defect. Our finding that GSK-3 beta interacted only with Ume6p but not with IME1 in a yeast 2-hybrid assay suggests that noncomplementation reflects partial divergence in substrate specificity. This work provides the basis for future studies of GSK-3 beta signaling in mammalian meiosis and spermatogenesis.

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