Relaxin family peptide receptor 2 (RXFP2) is the cognate receptor of a peptide hormone insulin-like 3 (INSL3). INSL3 is expressed at high levels in both fetal and adult Leydig cells. Deletion of Insl3 or Rxfp2 genes in mice caused cryptorchidism resulting from a failure of gubernaculum development. Using a novel mouse transgenic line with a knock-in LacZ reporter in the Rxfp2 locus, we detected a robust Rxfp2 expression in embryonic and early postnatal gubernaculum in males and in postmeiotic spermatogenic cells in adult testis. To study the role of INSL3/RXFP2 signaling in male reproduction, we produced a floxed Rxfp2 allele and used the Cre/loxP approach to delete Rxfp2 in different tissues. Using Cre transgene driven by retinoic acid receptor beta promoter, conditional gene targeting in gubernacular mesenchymal cells at early embryonic stages caused high intraabdominal cryptorchidism as in males with a global deletion of Rxfp2. However, when the Rxfp2 was deleted in gubernacular smooth or striated muscle cells, no abnormalities of testicular descent or testis development were found. Specific ablation of Rxfp2 in male germ cells using Stra8-icre transgene did not affect testis descent, spermatogenesis, or fertility in adult males. No significant change in germ cell apoptosis was detected in mutant males. In summary, our data indicate that the INSL3/RXFP2 signaling is important for testicular descent but dispensable for spermatogenesis and fertility in adult males.
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Vol. 87 • No. 6