Perinatal germ cell development and differentiation in the male marmoset (Callithrix jacchus): similarities with the human and differences from the rat

Chris McKinnell, Rod T Mitchell, Keith Morris, Richard A Anderson, Chris Jh Kelnar, W Hamish Wallace, Richard M Sharpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

STUDY QUESTION: Is perinatal germ cell (GC) differentiation in the marmoset similar to that in the human? SUMMARY ANSWER: In a process comparable with the human, marmoset GC differentiate rapidly after birth, losing OCT4 expression after 5-7 weeks of age during mini-puberty. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Most of our understanding about perinatal GC development derives from rodents, in which all gonocytes (undifferentiated GC) co-ordinately lose expression of the pluripotency factor OCT4 and stop proliferating in late gestation. Then after birth these differentiated GC migrate to the basal lamina and resume proliferation prior to the onset of spermatogenesis. In humans, fetal GC differentiation occurs gradually and asynchronously and OCT4(+) GC persist into perinatal life. Failure to switch off OCT4 in GC perinatally can lead to development of carcinoma in situ (CIS), the precursor of testicular germ cell cancer (TGCC), for which there is no animal model. Marmosets show similarities to the human, but systematic evaluation of perinatal GC development in this species is lacking. Similarity, especially for loss of OCT4 expression, would support use of the marmoset as a model for the human and for studying CIS origins. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE AND DURATION: Testis tissues were obtained from marmosets (n = 4-10 per age) at 12-17 weeks' gestation and post-natal weeks 0.5, 2.5, 5-7, 14 and 22 weeks, humans at 15-18 weeks' gestation (n = 5) and 4-5 weeks of age (n = 4) and rats at embryonic day 21.5 (e21.5) (n = 3) and post-natal days 4, 6 and 8 (n = 4 each). PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING AND METHODS: Testis sections from fetal and post-natal marmosets, humans and rats were collected and immunostained for OCT4 and VASA to identify undifferentiated and differentiated GC, respectively, and for Ki67, to identify proliferating GC. Stereological quantification of GC numbers, differentiation (% OCT4(+) GC) and proliferation were performed in perinatal marmosets and humans. Quantification of GC position within seminiferous cords was performed in marmosets, humans and rats. MAIN RESULTS AND ROLE OF CHANCE: The total GC number increased 17-fold from birth to 22 post-natal weeks in marmosets; OCT4(+) and VASA(+) GC proliferated equally in late gestation and early post-natal life. The percentage of OCT4(+) GC fell from 54% in late fetal life to
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)886-896
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


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