Alteration of protein prenylation promotes spermatogonial differentiation and exhausts spermatogonial stem cells in newborn mice

Spermatogenesis in adulthood depends on the successful neonatal establishment of the spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) pool and gradual differentiation during puberty. The stage-dependent changes in protein prenylation in the seminiferous epithelium might be important during the first round of spermatogenesis before sexual maturation, but the mechanisms are unclear. We have previous found that altered prenylation in Sertoli cells induced spermatogonial apoptosis in the neonatal testis, resulting in adult infertility. Now we further explored the role of protein prenylation in germ cells, using a conditional deletion of geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase (Ggpps) in embryonic stage and postmeiotic stage respectively. We observed infertility of Ggpps(-/-) Ddx4-Cre mice that displayed a Sertoli-cell-only syndrome phenotype, which resulted from abnormal spermatogonial differentiation and SSC depletion during the prepubertal stage. Analysis of morphological characteristics and cell-specific markers revealed that spermatogonial differentiation was enhanced from as early as the 7(th) postnatal day in the first round of spermatogenesis. Studies of the molecular mechanisms indicated that Ggpps deletion enhanced Rheb farnesylation, which subsequently activated mTORC1 and facilitated spermatogonial differentiation. In conclusion, the prenylation balance in germ cells is crucial for spermatogonial differentiation fate decision during the prepubertal stage, and the disruption of this process results in primary infertility.

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