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Biol Reprod. 2016 Dec;95(6):117. Epub 2016 Oct 12.

TSPAN8 Expression Distinguishes Spermatogonial Stem Cells in the Prepubertal Mouse Testis.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas.
  • 2Genomics Core Facility, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas.
  • 3Center for Reproductive Biology, School of Molecular Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington.
  • 4Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology and East Carolina Diabetes and Obesity Institute, Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina.
  • 5Department of Biology, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas


Precise separation of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) from progenitor spermatogonia that lack stem cell activity and are committed to differentiation remains a challenge. To distinguish between these spermatogonial subtypes, we identified genes that exhibited bimodal mRNA levels at the single-cell level among undifferentiated spermatogonia from Postnatal Day 6 mouse testes, including Tspan8, Epha2, and Pvr, each of which encode cell surface proteins useful for cell selection. Transplantation studies provided definitive evidence that a TSPAN8-high subpopulation is enriched for SSCs. RNA-seq analyses identified genes differentially expressed between TSPAN8-high and -low subpopulations that clustered into multiple biological pathways potentially involved in SSC renewal or differentiation, respectively. Methyl-seq analysis identified hypomethylated domains in the promoters of these genes in both subpopulations that colocalized with peaks of histone modifications defined by ChIP-seq analysis. Taken together, these results demonstrate functional heterogeneity among mouse undifferentiated spermatogonia and point to key biological characteristics that distinguish SSCs from progenitor spermatogonia.


epigenetics; single-cell; spermatogonial stem cells; surface marker; transcriptome; transplantation

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