Immunohistochemistry was used to examine GCNA1, a germ cell-specific protein, together with DMRT1 (Doublesex and Mab-3-related transcription factor-1), a transcription factor implicated in Sertoli cell and germ cell function, in order to resolve DMRT1′s cellular profile during pre- and postnatal gonad development in the mouse. In the indifferent gonad (10.5–11.5 days postcoitus [dpc]), DMRT1 localized to somatic cells and GCNA1 germ cells and was indistinguishable in males and females. By 12.5 dpc, a clear sexual preference for DMRT1 in male somatic cells was observed, with male DMRT1 localized to testicular cords and more abundant in Sertoli cells than in germ cells and female DMRT1 diffusely labeled and markedly lower in somatic cells than in germ cells. A male somatic preference continued throughout development, with DMRT1 evident in Sertoli cells at all ages examined and absent in ovarian somatic cells from 13.5 dpc onward. In contrast, expression in primordial germ cells was not sexually distinct, and both sexes showed DMRT1 increasing through 13.5 dpc and absent by 15.5 dpc. Notably, sexual differences in germ cell DMRT1 were detected after birth, when it was detected only in spermatogonia of the testis. Colocalization of DMRT1 with proliferation markers KI67 and proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) and stem cell markers OCT4 (also known as POU5F1) and NGN3 indicated that, in postnatal testes, DMRT1 was present in both stem and proliferating spermatogonia. Together, the findings implicate opposite functions for DMRT1 in somatic and germ cells of the testis. In Sertoli cells, DMRT1 expression correlated with differentiation, whereas in germ cells, it suggested a role in expansion and maintenance of undifferentiated spermatogonia.
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Vol. 77 • No. 3