Regulation of the Wilms' tumor gene during spermatogenesis

K Del Rio-Tsonis, L Covarrubias, J Kent, N D Hastie, P A Tsonis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Spermatogenesis is the process by which male germ cells develop and mature, a pathway that includes a transition from a mitotic to a meiotic cell cycle. Throughout this pathway, the germ cells are in close contact with their nurturing cells, the Sertoli cells. Sertoli-germ cell interactions are difficult to study in mammals due to the complex cellular organization of their seminiferous tubules. The urodele amphibian testis, however, provides a unique system to study the process of germ cell maturation; it is organized in a gradient-like cystic structure, in which synchronized germ cells can be found within the same cyst. The Wilms' tumor gene (WT1) has been shown to be an essential gene for the formation of the gonads in mice, and it has been implicated in a variety of differentiation processes. The WT1 gene is thus a good candidate for the study of the differentiation processes involved in the maturation of the male germ cells. By using a probe for the urodele WT1 homologue in in situ hybridization studies, as well as an antibody against the WT1 protein in immunohistochemistry studies, we determined that WT1 gene expression in Sertoli cells depends on the stage of maturation of the associated germ cell. Thus, WT1 mRNA was detected only in Sertoli cells of cysts that contained early spermatogonia. No mRNA expression was observed in cysts containing late spermatogonia, germ cells undergoing meiosis, or germ cells going through spermiogenesis. Immunohistochemistry studies confirmed that WT1 protein was strongly expressed in Sertoli cells associated with early spermatogonia but not in late ones. The protein was also found in Sertoli cells associated with germ cells that undergo the subsequent stages of meiosis and spermiogenesis. These results suggest that WT1 could be involved in the regulation by Sertoli cells of germ cell maturation and possibly in the progression from a mitotic to a meiotic cell cycle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-81
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Dynamics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1996

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Ambystoma
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genes, Wilms Tumor
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Leydig Cells
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Sertoli Cells
  • Spermatogenesis
  • Spermatogonia
  • Spermatozoa
  • Testis


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