Spermatogenesis is a complicated process of germ cell differentiation, involving programmatic expression of diverse cell type- and developmental stage-specific genes. To date, the vitamin-A-deficiency (VAD) rats and postnatal rats are two models commonly used to study spermatogenesis. In the present study, we studied the expression of 1185 known genes in the vitamin-A-deficient and retinol-reinitiated spermatogenesis of rat testis using Clontech Atlas rat cDNA expression arrays. The mRNA expression patterns of post-vitamin-A (PVA) testis on Days 15 and 35 were compared with those of the spermatogenic arrested rat testis on Day 0. About 9% (110/1185) of the genes studied were highly expressed. When compared with VAD rat testis on Day 0, 20 and 31 genes were differentially expressed by a factor of twofold or greater on Days 15 and 35, respectively. Four genes (cytochrome P450 17, sulfated glycoprotein 2, protein kinase inhibitor, and cathepsin L) that play important roles in spermatogenesis were selected and their gene expression patterns were confirmed by semiquantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Comparison of the expression patterns of these genes between PVA-VAD and postnatal rat testis in developmentally matched stages revealed substantial differences during the early stages of spermatogenesis. This discrepancy could be caused by either the presence of arrested but mature somatic cells in the PVA-VAD testis that may contribute to a unique gene expression pattern in this model or the direct effect of retinol on spermatogenesis. Therefore, caution is needed in interpreting the gene expression data using the PVA-VAD and postnatal rat models in studying spermatogenesis in rat testes.
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