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Dev Biol. 1993 May;157(1):85-99.

The expression pattern of the c-kit ligand in gonads of mice supports a role for the c-kit receptor in oocyte growth and in proliferation of spermatogonia.

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Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, Cornell University Medical College, New York, New York 10021.


The tyrosine kinase receptor c-kit and its ligand KL are required for postnatal development of germ cells, in addition to their role in primordial germ cells. To clarify their function, a detailed examination of the pattern of expression of KL in postnatal gonads was undertaken. In ovaries, the expression of KL as seen by RNA blot analysis and by RNase protection assays is relatively high at birth (P0), low from P5 to P8, and high from P12 onward. KL expression is relatively high in testes of all ages. The forms of KL RNA present in the testes suggest that from P5 onward the membrane-bound form of KL predominates, while in the ovary significant amounts of both forms are present. As observed by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, in the newborn ovary KL is highly expressed in central cords whose cells contribute to the formation of central growing follicles. Expression is low in follicle cells of small growing follicles and increases to high levels in three-layered follicles during late oocyte growth. Large amounts of the ligand are found within growing oocytes. After oocyte growth ceases, expression continues only in the outer layers of multilayered follicles. In the testis, from P0 through P9, KL expression is distinct in Sertoli cells, but not in germ cells. Thereafter, the intensity of KL expression declines as the number of spermatogenic cells increases within the tubules. KL in Sertoli cells appears to be concentrated basally at the stage of the cycle of the seminiferous epithelium when it is known to interact with differentiating type A spermatogonia. These data are consistent with a role for KL in oocyte growth and in facilitating proliferation and/or differentiation of type A spermatogonia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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