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EMBO J. 2006 Dec 13;25(24):5816-25. Epub 2006 Nov 23.

Prepubertal testis development relies on retinoic acid but not rexinoid receptors in Sertoli cells.

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Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, INSERM U596, 1 rue Laurent Fries, Illkirch F-67404, France.


Sertoli cells (SC) are instrumental to stem spermatogonia differentiation, a process that critically depends on retinoic acid (RA). We show here that selective ablation of RA receptor alpha (RARalpha) gene in mouse SC, singly (Rara(Ser-/-) mutation) or in combination with RARbeta and RARgamma genes (Rara/b/g(Ser-/-) mutation), abolishes cyclical gene expression in these cells. It additionally induces testis degeneration and delays spermatogonial expression of Stra8, two hallmarks of RA deficiency. As identical defects are generated upon inactivation of RARalpha in the whole organism, our data demonstrate that all the functions exerted by RARalpha in male reproduction are Sertoli cell-autonomous. They further indicate that RARalpha is a master regulator of the cyclical activity of SC and controls paracrine pathways required for spermatogonia differentiation and germ cell survival. Most importantly, we show that the ablation of all RXR (alpha, beta and gamma isotypes) in SC does not recapitulate the phenotype generated upon ablation of all three RARs, thereby providing the first evidence that RARs exert functions in vivo independently of RXRs.

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