Spermatogenesis in mammals occurs in a very highly organized manner within the seminiferous epithelium regulated by different cell types in the testis. Testosterone produced by Leydig cells regulates blood–testis barrier formation, meiosis, spermiogenesis, and spermiation. However, it is unknown whether Leydig cell function changes with the different stages of the seminiferous epithelium. This study utilized the WIN 18,446 and retinoic acid (RA) treatment regime combined with the RiboTag mouse methodology to synchronize male germ cell development and allow for the in vivo mapping of the Leydig cell translatome across the different stages of one cycle of the seminiferous epithelium. Using microarrays analysis, we identified 11 Leydig cell-enriched genes that were expressed in stage-specific manner such as the glucocorticoid synthesis and transport genes, Cyp21a1 and Serpina6. In addition, there were nine Leydig cell transcripts that change their association with polysomes in correlation with the different stages of the spermatogenic cycle including Egr1. Interestingly, the signal intensity of EGR1 and CYP21 varied among Leydig cells in the adult asynchronous testis. However, testosterone levels across the different stages of germ cell development did not cycle. These data show, for the first time, that Leydig cell gene expression changes in a stage-specific manner during the cycle of the seminiferous epithelium and indicate that a heterogeneous Leydig cell population exists in the adult mouse testis.
Synchronizing spermatogenesis utilizing WIN18,446/RA treatment combined with the RiboTag methodology revealed that Leydig cell gene expression events change across one spermatogenic cycle but does not alter testosterone levels