Although pluripotent stem cells were recently discovered in postnatal testis, attempts to analyze their developmental potential have led to conflicting claims that spermatogonial stem cells are pluripotent or that they lose spermatogenic potential after conversion into pluripotent stem cells. To examine this issue, we analyzed the developmental fate of a single spermatogonial stem cell that appeared during transfection experiments. After transfection of a neomycin-resistance gene into germline stem cells, we obtained an embryonic stem-like, multipotent germline stem cell line. Southern blot analysis revealed that the germline stem and multipotent germline stem clones have the same transgene integration pattern, demonstrating their identical origin. The two lines, however, have different DNA methylation patterns. The multipotent germline stem cells formed chimeras after blastocyst injection but did not produce sperm after germ cell transplantation, whereas the germline stem cells could produce only spermatozoa and did not differentiate into somatic cells. Interestingly, the germline stem cells expressed several transcription factors (Pou5f1, Sox2, Myc, and Klf4) required for reprogramming fibroblasts into a pluripotent state, suggesting that they are potentially pluripotent. Thus, our study provides evidence that a single spermatogonial stem cell can acquire pluripotentiality but that conversion into a pluripotent cell type is accompanied by loss of spermatogenic potential.
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Vol. 78 • No. 4