Prospermatogonia, or gonocytes, are the cells that differentiate from primordial germ cells to the first mature type of spermatogonia in the developing testis. Although prospermatogonia play a central role in this stage (i.e., prespermatogenesis), the details regarding their characterization have not been fully elucidated. Recently, we identified a novel mouse testicular germ cell-specific antigen, TES101 reactive protein (TES101RP), in the adult mouse testis. The protein TES101RP is also designated as protein TEX101. In the present study, we investigated the expression of TEX101 on germ cells in developing mouse gonads using histochemical techniques (i.e., immunohistochemistry, BrdU labeling, and TUNEL staining) and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. TEX101 appeared on germ cells in both male and female gonads after the pregonadal period. In the testis, TEX101 was expressed constitutively on surviving prospermatogonia during prespermatogenesis. After the initiation of spermatogenesis, the prospermatogonia differentiated into spermatogonia. TEX101 expression disappeared from the spermatogonia, but reappeared on spermatocytes and spermatids. In the ovary, TEX101 was expressed on germ cells until the start of folliculogenesis; TEX101 was not detected on oocytes that were surrounded by follicular cells. These findings indicate that TEX101 is a specific marker for both male and female germ cells during gonadal development. Because the on and off switching of TEX101 expression in germ cells almost parallels the kinetics of gametogenesis, TEX101 may play an important physiological role in germ cell development.
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