In the seminiferous epithelium, spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) are located in a particular environment called the “niche” that is controlled by the basement membrane, key testis somatic cells, and factors originating from the vascular network. However, the role of Leydig cells (LCs) as a niche component is not yet clearly elucidated. Recent studies showed that peccaries (Tayassu tajacu) present a peculiar LC cytoarchitecture in which these cells are located around the seminiferous tubule lobes, making the peccary a unique model for investigating the SSC niche. This peculiarity allowed us to subdivide the seminiferous tubule cross-sections in three different testis parenchyma regions (tubule-tubule, tubule-interstitium, and tubule-LC contact). Our aims were to characterize the different spermatogonial cell types and to determine the location and/or distribution of the SSCs along the seminiferous tubules. Compared to differentiating spermatogonia, undifferentiated spermatogonia (Aund) presented a noticeably higher nuclear volume (P < 0.05), allowing an accurate evaluation of their distribution. Immunostaining analysis demonstrated that approximately 93% of Aund were GDNF receptor alpha 1 positive (GFRA1 ), and these cells were preferentially located adjacent to the interstitial compartment without LCs (P < 0.05). The expression of colony-stimulating factor 1 was observed in LCs and peritubular myoid cells (PMCs), whereas its receptor was present in LCs and in GFRA1 Aund. Taken together, our findings strongly suggest that LCs, different from PMCs, might play a minor role in the SSC niche and physiology and that these steroidogenic cells are probably involved in the differentiation of Aund toward type A1 spermatogonia.
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Vol. 86 • No. 5