The continuous production of mammalian sperm is maintained by the proliferation and differentiation of spermatogonial stem cells that originate from primordial germ cells (PGCs) in the early embryo. Although spermatogonial stem cells arise from PGCs, it is not clear whether fetal male germ cells function as spermatogonial stem cells able to produce functional sperm. In the present study, we examined the timing and mechanisms of the commitment of fetal germ cells to differentiate into spermatogonial stem cells by transplantation techniques. Transplantation of fetal germ cells into the seminiferous tubules of adult testis showed that donor germ cells, at 14.5 days postcoitum (dpc), were able to initiate spermatogenesis in the adult recipient seminiferous tubules, whereas no germ cell differentiation was observed in the transplantation of 12.5-dpc germ cells. These results indicate that the commitment of fetal germ cells to differentiate into spermatogonial stem cells initiates between embryonic days 12.5 and 14.5. Furthermore, the results suggest the importance of the interaction between germ cells and somatic cells in the determination of fetal germ cell differentiation into spermatogonial stem cells, as normal spermatogenesis was observed when a 12.5-dpc whole gonad was transplanted into adult recipient testis. In addition, sperm obtained from the 12.5- dpc male gonadal explant had the ability to develop normally if injected into the cytoplasm of oocytes, indicating that normal development of fetal germ cells in fetal gonadal explant occurred in the adult testicular environment.
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