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J Anat. 2005 Dec;207(6):797-811.

Atypical development of Sertoli cells and impairment of spermatogenesis in the hypogonadal (hpg) mouse.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Victoria, Australia.


Testes of hypogonadal (hpg) mice show arrested postnatal development due to congenital deficiencies of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and gonadotrophin synthesis and secretion. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), androgen or oestrogen treatment restore qualitatively normal spermatogenesis in hpg testes. Understanding the cellular and molecular changes accompanying hormone-induced spermatogenesis in hpg mice requires detailed morphological analyses of the germ cells and Sertoli cells in the untreated hpg testis. We compared seminiferous epithelial cytology in adult hpg, immature and adult wild-type mice using unbiased optical disector-based stereology, immunolocalization of Sertoli cell microtubules (MT), espin (a component of the blood-testis barrier), markers of Sertoli cell maturity (p27(kip1) and WT-1), and electron microscopy. Hpg testes had marked reductions in weight, seminiferous cord volume and length, and severe spermatogenic impairment with germ cells per testis < 1% of adult wild-type testes. Sertoli cell nuclei expressed WT-1 in hpg testes, but often were centrally located, similar to 9-14-day-old wild-type testes, and they expressed p27(kip1), indicating that hpg Sertoli cells were post-mitotic. Hpg testes had significantly (P < 0.05) reduced Sertoli cells per testis (0.56 million) compared with 10-day wild-type (1.15 million) and adult wild-type testes (2.06 million). Immunofluorescence labelling of normal adult Sertoli cells showed supranuclear MT columns and basally located espin, but these features were absent in 10-day-old and hpg Sertoli cells. Hpg Sertoli cells showed pleomorphic nuclear ultrastructure with mature-type nucleoli, similar to normal adult-type Sertoli cells, but hpg Sertoli cells exhibited incomplete tight junctions that lacked ectoplasmic specializations. We conclude that in hpg mice, chronic gonadotrophin insufficiency restrains Sertoli cell proliferation and maturation, forming pseudo-adult-type Sertoli cells that are incapable of supporting germ cell proliferation and maturation.

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