Mammalian spermatogenesis is a continuum of cellular differentiation in a lineage that features three principal stages: 1) a mitotically active stage in spermatogonia, 2) a meiotic stage in spermatocytes, and 3) a postreplicative stage in spermatids. We used a microarray-based approach to identify changes in expression of cell-cycle genes that distinguish 1) mitotic type A spermatogonia from meiotic pachytene spermatocytes and 2) pachytene spermatocytes from postreplicative round spermatids. We detected expression of 550 genes related to cell-cycle function in one or more of these cell types. Although a majority of these genes were expressed during all three stages of spermatogenesis, we observed dramatic changes in levels of individual transcripts between mitotic spermatogonia and meiotic spermatocytes and between meiotic spermatocytes and postreplicative spermatids. Our results suggest that distinct cell-cycle gene regulatory networks or subnetworks are associated with each phase of the cell cycle in each spermatogenic cell type. In addition, we observed expression of different members of certain cell-cycle gene families in each of the three spermatogenic cell types investigated. Finally, we report expression of 221 cell-cycle genes that have not previously been annotated as part of the cell cycle network expressed during spermatogenesis, including eight novel genes that appear to be testis-specific.
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Vol. 83 • No. 4