Vitamin A (retinol) is required for maintenance of adult mammalian spermatogenesis. In adult rodents, vitamin A withdrawal is followed by a loss of differentiated germ cells within the seminiferous epithelium and disrupted spermatogenesis that can be restored by vitamin A replacement. However, whether vitamin A plays a role in the differentiation and meiotic initiation of germ cells during the first round of mouse spermatogenesis is unknown. In the present study, we found that vitamin A depletion markedly decreased testicular expression of the all-trans retinoic acid-responsive gene, Stra8, and caused meiotic failure in prepubertal male mice lacking lecithin:retinol acyltransferase (Lrat), encoding for the major enzyme in liver responsible for the formation of retinyl esters. Rather than undergoing normal differentiation, germ cells accumulated in the testes of Lrat−/− mice maintained on a vitamin A-deficient diet. These results, together with our previous observations that germ cells fail to enter meiosis and remain undifferentiated in embryonic vitamin A-deficient ovaries, support the hypothesis that vitamin A regulates the initiation of meiosis I of both oogenesis and spermatogenesis in mammals.
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Vol. 84 • No. 2