Thyroid hormone inhibits neonatal Sertoli cell proliferation and recent results have shown that thyroid hormone upregulates cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors (CDKIs) p27Kip1 and p21Cip1 (also known as CDKN1B and CDKN1A, respectively) in neonatal Sertoli cells. This suggests that these CDKIs, which negatively regulate the cell cycle, could be critical in Sertoli cell proliferation. Consistent with this hypothesis, mice lacking p27Kip1 develop testicular organomegaly, but Sertoli cell numbers have not been determined. Likewise, effects of loss of p21Cip1 or both p27 and p21 on Sertoli cell number and testicular development were unknown. To determine if p27 and/or p21 regulate Sertoli cell proliferation, we measured Sertoli cell proliferation at Postnatal Day 16 and testis weight, Sertoli cell number, and daily sperm production (DSP) in 4-mo-old wild-type (WT), p21 knockout (p21KO), p27 knockout (p27KO), and p27/p21 double-knockout (DBKO) mice. Testis weights were increased 27%, 42%, and 86% in adult p21KO, p27KO, and DBKO mice, respectively, compared with WT. Sertoli cell number also was increased 48%, 126%, and 126% in p21KO, p27KO, and DBKO mice, respectively, versus WT. DSP in p21KO, p27KO, and DBKO testes also showed significant increases compared with WT mice. Although DSP was increased, there were increased spermatogenic defects observed in both p27KO and DBKO mice compared with WT. These data indicate that both p27 and p21 play an inhibitory role in regulating adult Sertoli cell number such that loss of either CDKI produces primary increases in Sertoli cell number and secondary increases in DSP and testis weight. Furthermore, loss of both CDKIs causes additive effects on DSP and testis weight, suggesting a central role for these CDKIs in testis development.
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