In the mammalian testis, spermatogenesis is initiated from a subset of stem cells belonging to undifferentiated type A spermatogonia. In spite of the biologic significance of undifferentiated type A spermatogonia, little is known about their behavior and properties because of a lack of specific cell surface markers. Here we show that CDH1 (previously known as E-cadherin) is expressed specifically in undifferentiated type A spermatogonia in the mouse testis. Histologic analysis showed that CDH1-positive cells had all the characteristics of undifferentiated type A spermatogonia. Whole-mount immunohistochemistry showed that CDH1-positive cells made clusters mainly comprising one, two, four, or eight cells. They survived after administration of the cytotoxic agent busulfan to mice, and then regenerated seminiferous epithelia. Transplantation experiments showed that only CDH1-positive cells had colonizing activity in the recipient testis. Our data clearly demonstrated that spermatogenic stem cells reside among undifferentiated type A spermatogonia, which express CDH1.
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Vol. 76 • No. 1