Beyond stem cells: Commitment of progenitor cells to meiosis Academic Article uri icon


  • The first step in established spermatogenesis is the production of progenitor cells by the stem cell population. The progenitor cells (undifferentiated A spermatogonia) expand in number via the formation of syncytial chains by mitosis. The mechanism by which these progenitor cells commit to meiosis and spermatogenesis is tightly controlled and results in complex morphological organization all of which is designed to efficiently achieve large numbers of spermatozoa. The major extrinsic factor that triggers the commitment to meiosis and establishes the structural complexity is retinoic acid (RA). Retinoic acid is produced from retinol via two oxidation steps in low abundance near its site of action. The action of RA on undifferentiated A spermatogonia results in the timed progression of these progenitor cells into the cycle of the seminiferous epithelium. We have utilized a drug WIN 18,446 that inhibits the second oxidation step in RA biosynthesis to block the progression of undifferentiated A spermatogonia in the mouse testis. As a result of this block the undifferentiated progenitor cells accumulate but do not differentiate into A1 spermatogonia. When the block is released and a bolus of RA is simultaneously administered the accumulated spermatogonia progress through the differentiation pathway in complete synchrony and maintain that synchrony with regard to stages of the cycle of the seminiferous epithelium for several months. This procedure allowed us to accumulate sufficient material to measure retinoic acid levels across the cycle and will allow us to isolate and analyze large number of progenitor cells proceeding synchronously down the pathway to meiosis. We have been able to show that the cycle of the seminiferous epithelium is established and maintained by pulses of RA that appear at stages VIII and IX of the cycle.

publication date

  • 2018