Expression of the diphtheria toxin A-chain gene was directed to the male germ line by fusion to 1 kilobase of the 5′-flanking DNA of the rat histone H1t gene. Two independent lines of mice were established that expressed the toxic transgene. Female carriers were fertile; males were sterile although otherwise apparently normal. Adult transgenic males had very small testes that were virtually devoid of germ cells. A developmental study showed that germ cells survived until late fetal life but that testes of 3-day-old transgenic mice were severely depleted of prospermatogonia. During postnatal development of transgenic animals, remaining germ cells progressed to the pachytene stage of meiosis in 10% to 30% of tubular cross sections but degenerated before the completion of meiosis. By 3 mo of age the residual germ cells had almost completely disappeared. These transgenic lines demonstrate the complete tissue specificity of the H1t promoter and reveal a period of its activity just prior to formation of the definitive adult spermatogonial stem cell population. Whereas full expression of H1t occurs only in mid to late pachytene spermatocytes, one or more of the factors that impart tissue specificity to its expression must be transiently activated in the neonatal germ line. This report discusses the possibility that this genetic technique for eliminating germ cells may have practical application in making recipients for spermatogonial stem cell transplantation.
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