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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2008 Jun 25;288(1-2):95-103. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2008.04.012. Epub 2008 Apr 26.

Gdnf signaling pathways within the mammalian spermatogonial stem cell niche.

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Department of Veterinary Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, and Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61802, United States.


Mammalian spermatogenesis is a complex process in which male germ-line stem cells develop to ultimately form spermatozoa. Spermatogonial stem cells, or SSCs, are found in the basal compartment of the seminiferous epithelium. They self-renew to maintain the pool of stem cells throughout life, or they differentiate to generate a large number of germ cells. A balance between SSC self-renewal and differentiation in the adult testis is therefore essential to maintain normal spermatogenesis and fertility. Maintenance and self-renewal are tightly regulated by extrinsic signals from the surrounding microenvironment, called the spermatogonial stem cell niche. By physically supporting the SSCs and providing them with growth factors, the Sertoli cell is the main component of the niche. In addition, adhesion molecules that connect the SSCs to the basement membrane and cellular components of the interstitium between the seminiferous tubules are important regulators of the niche function. This review mainly focuses on glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (Gdnf), which is produced by Sertoli cells to maintain SSCs self-renewal, and the downstream signaling pathways induced by this crucial growth factor. Interactions between Gdnf and other signaling pathways that maintain self-renewal, as well as the role of novel SSC- and Sertoli cell-specific transcription factors, are also discussed.

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