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PLoS One. 2015 Apr 14;10(4):e0124293. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0124293. eCollection 2015.

A novel transcriptional factor Nkapl is a germ cell-specific suppressor of Notch signaling and is indispensable for spermatogenesis.

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Department of Urology, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka, Japan.
Department of Urology, Juntendo University Hospital, Tokyo, Japan.
Animal Resource Center for Infectious Diseases, Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan.
National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Tokyo, Japan.
Molecular Biology Division, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Nagasaki International University, Nagasaki, Japan.


Spermatogenesis is an elaborately regulated system dedicated to the continuous production of spermatozoa via the genesis of spermatogonia. In this process, a variety of genes are expressed that are relevant to the differentiation of germ cells at each stage. Although Notch signaling plays a critical role in germ cell development in Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans, its function and importance for spermatogenesis in mammals is controversial. We report that Nkapl is a novel germ cell-specific transcriptional suppressor in Notch signaling. It is also associated with several molecules of the Notch corepressor complex such as CIR, HDAC3, and CSL. It was expressed robustly in spermatogonia and early spermatocytes after the age of 3 weeks. Nkapl-deleted mice showed complete arrest at the level of pachytene spermatocytes. In addition, apoptosis was observed in this cell type. Overexpression of NKAPL in germline stem cells demonstrated that Nkapl induced changes in spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) markers and the reduction of differentiation factors through the Notch signaling pathway, whereas testes with Nkapl deleted showed inverse changes in those markers and factors. Therefore, Nkapl is indispensable because aberrantly elevated Notch signaling has negative effects on spermatogenesis, affecting SSC maintenance and differentiation factors. Notch signaling should be properly regulated through the transcriptional factor Nkapl.

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