Initiation of the first wave of spermatogenesis in the neonatal mouse testis is characterized by the differentiation of a transient population of germ cells called gonocytes found in the center of the seminiferous tubule. The fate of gonocytes depends upon these cells resuming mitosis and developing the capacity to migrate from the center of the seminiferous tubule to the basement membrane. This process begins approximately Day 3 postpartum in the mouse, and by Day 6 postpartum differentiated type A spermatogonia first appear. It is essential for continual spermatogenesis in adults that some gonocytes differentiate into spermatogonial stem cells, which give rise to all differentiating germ cells in the testis, during this neonatal period. The presence of spermatogonial stem cells in a population of cells can be assessed with the use of the spermatogonial stem cell transplantation technique. Using this assay, we found that germ cells from the testis of Day 0–3 mouse pups can colonize recipient testes but do not proliferate and establish donor-derived spermatogenesis. However, germ cells from testes of Day 4–5 postpartum mice colonize recipient testes and generate large areas of donor-derived spermatogenesis. Likewise, germ cells from Day 10, 12, and 28 postpartum animals and adult animals colonize and establish donor-derived spermatogenesis, but a dramatic reduction in the number of colonies and the extent of colonization occurs from germ cell donors Days 12–28 postpartum that continues in adult donors. These results suggest spermatogonial stem cells are not present or not capable of initiating donor-derived spermatogenesis until Days 3–4 postpartum. The analysis of germ cell development during this time frame of development and spermatogonial stem cell transplantation provides a unique system to investigate the establishment of the stem cell niche within the mouse testis.
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