Vitamin A is required for male fertility and normal spermatogenesis. Retinoic acid (RA), an active metabolite of vitamin A, is necessary for spermatogonial maturation and proper entry of germ cells into meiotic prophase in the postnatal testes. The expression of Stra8, which is essential for successful meiosis in both male and female gonads and normal spermatogenesis, is directly related to the availability of RA. This study examined the developmental expression pattern of Stra8 transcript in both male and female gonads, provided specific cellular localization of STRA8 protein in the postnatal and adult testis, and investigated RA actions in adult germ cells in a vitamin A-sufficient condition. The peak of Stra8 mRNA expression coincided with the onset of meiosis in postnatal testes. STRA8 protein was detected in gonocytes as early as 5 days postpartum. The expression of STRA8 protein in the neonatal testes was not uniform among spermatogonia, perhaps heralding the asynchronous beginning of spermatogenesis. In adult testes, the highest level of Stra8 mRNA and protein was found in seminiferous epithelial stages VI–VIII. STRA8 protein was localized to some type A and B spermatogonia, preleptotene spermatocytes, and early leptotene spermatocytes. In the vitamin A-sufficient adult testes, RA but not retinol acetate stimulated Stra8 mRNA expression. STRA8 protein expression in adult spermatogonia was induced by RA stimulation, suggesting its role in spermatogonial differentiation. Retinoic acid also increased the number of preleptotene spermatocytes exhibiting 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine incorporation, indicating a more synchronized premeiotic DNA replication.
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Vol. 79 • No. 1