Regulation of germ line stem cell homeostasis
Anim Reprod, vol.12, n1, p.35-45, 2015
Mammalian spermatogenesis is a complex process in which spermatogonial stem cells of the testis (SSCs) develop to ultimately form spermatozoa. In the seminiferous epithelium, SSCs 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 is therefore essential to maintain normal spermatogenesis and fertility. Stem cell homeostasis is tightly regulated by signals from the surrounding microenvironment, or SSC niche. By physically supporting the SSCs and providing them with these extrinsic molecules, the Sertoli cell is the main component of the niche. Earlier studies have demonstrated that GDNF and CYP26B1, produced by Sertoli cells, are crucial for self-renewal of the SSC pool and maintenance of the undifferentiated state. Down-regulating the production of these molecules is therefore equally important to allow germ cell differentiation. We propose that NOTCH signaling in Sertoli cells is a crucial regulator of germ cell fate by counteracting these stimulatory factors to maintain stem cell homeostasis. Dysregulation of this essential niche component can lead by itself to sterility or facilitate testicular cancer development.
germ cell homeostasis, NOTCH signaling, Sertoli cells, spermatogonial stem cell niche, spermatogonial stem cells.