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1 April 2003 Clonogenic Culture of Normal Spermatogonia: In Vitro Regulation of Postnatal Germ Cell Proliferation
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The stem cell properties of neonatal germ cells have recently been demonstrated by in vivo transplantation. Regulation of proliferation of these cells, however, is not yet understood, and an in vitro system is needed for directly testing the action of differentiation and proliferation-related factors for germ cells. We developed an in vitro model involving micromanipulation and a single-cell clonogenic assay in which results from independent experiments on spermatogonia and gonocytes have been analyzed and compared. Neonatal germ cells can be distinguished by their large size both in vivo and in vitro in a single-cell suspension. These cells are picked up singly using a micropipette and deposited into a 96-well plate precoated with an extracellular matrix component, e.g., collagen IV. The effect of growth factors or cocultured somatic cells was assayed by counting the percentage of wells containing a colony and comparing this percentage with that of control cultures. Addition of platelet-derived growth factor significantly shifted the modal colony size for gonocytes from >16–64 to >64–128 cells/colony (P < 0.001, χ2) but had no effect on spermatogonia-derived colony size and number. For testis somatic cell underlays, there was a profound inhibition of all colony types, and immunohistochemical staining of testis cell underlays showed inhibin/activinβA subunit expression. This finding suggests that negative regulation of germ cell proliferation is mediated by inhibin. Addition of activin A to these cultures resulted in significant recovery (P = 0.046) of gonocyte-derived colony numbers but not spermatogonia-derived colonies, which may reflect the functional regulation by these factors observed in vivo. This proliferation assay also highlights many similarities in the regulation of gonocyte and spermatogonia proliferation in vitro, suggesting that proliferation potential is not noticeably affected by the transition of gonocytes to spermatogonia. For example, the average colony cloning efficiency was 80% for gonocytes and 76% for spermatogonia. This technology forms a basis for optimizing growth of neonatal germ cells for applications such as introduction of genetic material into the germ line to produce transgenic mice and to explore gene therapy.

Suzanne Hasthorpe "Clonogenic Culture of Normal Spermatogonia: In Vitro Regulation of Postnatal Germ Cell Proliferation," Biology of Reproduction 68(4), 1354-1360, (1 April 2003).
Received: 17 June 2002; Accepted: 1 October 2002; Published: 1 April 2003

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