The objective of the present study was to determine if the neurotropin receptors trkC and trkA are involved in embryonic testis development. These receptors bind neurotropin 3 and nerve growth factor, respectively. The hypothesis tested was that the absence of trkC or trkA receptors will have detrimental effects on testis development and morphology. The trkA and trkC homozygote knockout (KO) mice generally die either at or shortly after birth. Therefore, heterozygote mice were mated to obtain homozygote gene KO mice at Embryonic Day (E) 13, E14, E17, and E19 of gestation, with E0 being the plug date. Gonads from approximately 80 embryos were collected and fixed, and each embryo was genotyped. To determine gonadal characteristics for each genotype, the number of germ cells, number of seminiferous cords, seminiferous cord area, and interstitial area were calculated at each developmental age. Germ cell numbers varied in trkA gene KO mice from those of wild-type mice at each age evaluated. In trkC gene KO mice, differences were detected in germ cell numbers when compared to wild-type mice at E17 and E19. At E19, germ cell numbers were reduced in both trkA and trkC gene KO mice when compared to wild-type animals. Apoptosis was evaluated in testes of wild-type, trkC gene KO, and trkA gene KO mice to determine if the alteration in germ cell numbers at each developmental age was influenced by different patterns of germ cell survival or apoptosis. No differences were found in germ cell apoptosis during embryonic testis development. Interestingly, trkA gene KO mice that survived to Postnatal Day 19 had a 10-fold increase in germ cell apoptosis when compared to germ cells in wild-type mice. Evaluation of other morphological testis parameters demonstrated that trkC KO testes had reduced interstitial area at E13, reduced number of seminiferous cords at E14, and reduced seminiferous cord area at E19. The trkA gene KO testes had a reduction in the number of seminiferous cords at E14. Histology of both trkA and trkC gene KO testes demonstrated that these gonads appear to be developmentally delayed when compared to their wild-type testis counterparts at E13 during testis development. The current study demonstrates that both trkA and trkC neurotropin receptors influence germ cell numbers during testis development and events such as seminiferous cord formation.
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