Sertoli cells are the primary structural component of the fetal testis cords and postnatal seminiferous tubules. Live imaging technologies facilitate the visualization of cell morphologies and behaviors through developmental processes. A transgenic mouse line was generated using a fragment of the rat Gata4 gene to direct the expression of a dual-color fluorescent protein reporter in fetal and adult Sertoli cells. The reporter encoded a red fluorescent protein, monomeric Cherry (mCherry), fused to histone 2B and enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) fused to a glycosylphosphatidylinositol sequence, with a self-cleaving 2A polypeptide separating the two fusion proteins. After translation, the red and green fluorescent proteins translocated to the nucleus and plasma membrane, respectively, of Sertoli cells. Transgene expression in testes was first detected by fluorescent microscopy around Embryonic Day 12.0. Sertoli cell division and migration were visualized during testis cord formation in organ culture. Initially, the Sertoli cells had mesenchyme-like morphologies and behaviors, but later, the cells migrated to the periphery of the testis cords to become epithelialized. In postnatal seminiferous tubules, Sertoli nuclei were evenly spaced when viewed from the external surface of tubules, and Sertoli cytoplasm and membranes were associated with germ cells basally in a rosette pattern. This mouse line was bred to previously described transgenic mouse lines expressing EGFP in Sertoli cytoplasm or a nuclear cyan fluorescent protein (Cerulean) and mCherry in plasma membranes of germ cells. This revealed the physical relationship between Sertoli and germ cells in developing testis cords and provided a novel perspective on Sertoli cell development.
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Vol. 84 • No. 2