The rat mutant allele as is located on chromosome 12. Homozygous (as/as) males show arrested spermatogenesis, mainly at the pachytene spermatocyte stage. It is not clear whether this defective spermatogenesis is caused by a failure in a somatic cell component that supports spermatogenesis or in the germ cell itself. Spermatogonial transplantation was performed to identify the genetically defective site in the as/as testis. In experiment 1, germ cells collected from as/as testes were transplanted into the testes of immunodeficient mice and normal rats. In experiment 2, normal rat germ cells were transplanted into as/as testes. The results of experiment 1 showed arrest of spermatogenesis at the pachytene spermatocyte stage, accompanied by a characteristic morphological feature, i.e., the formation of inclusion-like bodies in the cytoplasm, in both rat and mouse recipients. These results revealed the intrinsic effect of the mutant gene(s) on germ cells. In experiment 2, no restoration of spermatogenesis was detected in the recipient testes despite thorough histological examination. These results suggest that defects in a somatic cell component in as/as testes prevent the donor germ cells from colonizing and regaining their spermatogenetic ability. When the seminiferous epithelium of the as/as testis was examined by electron microscopy, no morphological abnormalities, including the formation of ectoplasmic specializations between adjacent Sertoli cells, were observed in the somatic cell components. However, when cytochrome c was applied as a tracer material, it penetrated the tight junctions between the Sertoli cells, indicating dysfunction of the blood-testis barrier in the as/as testis. The lack of restoration of spermatogenesis in the as/as testis after transplantation of normal germ cells may have been caused by the unfavorable environment in the seminiferous epithelium resulting from the incomplete barrier system between adjoining Sertoli cells. The gene(s) at the as locus may have a role in both germ cell differentiation and the establishment of the blood-testis barrier.
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