Retinoic acid receptor signaling is necessary in steroidogenic cells for normal spermatogenesis and epididymal function Academic Article uri icon


  • Spermatogenesis in mammals is a very complex, highly organized process, regulated in part by testosterone and retinoic acid (RA). Much is known about how RA and testosterone signaling pathways independently regulate this process, but there is almost no information regarding whether these two signaling pathways directly interact and whether RA is crucial for steroidogenic cell function. This study uses a transgenic mouse line that expresses a dominant-negative form of RA receptor α (RAR-DN) and the steroidogenic cell-specific Cre mouse line, Cyp17iCre, to generate male mice with steroidogenic cells unable to perform RA signaling. Testes of mutant mice displayed increased apoptosis of pachytene spermatocytes, an increased number of macrophages in the interstitium and a loss of advanced germ cells. Additionally, blocking RA signaling in Leydig cells resulted in increased permeability of the blood-testis barrier, decreased levels of the steroidogenic enzyme cytochrome P450 17a1 and decreased testosterone levels. Surprisingly, the epididymides of the mutant mice also displayed an abnormal phenotype. This study demonstrates that RA signaling is required in steroidogenic cells for their normal function and, thus, for male fertility.


publication date

  • 2018