Expression profile of male germ cell-associated genes in mouse embryonic stem cell cultures treated with all-trans retinoic acid and testosterone

Celso Silva, Jennifer R. Wood, Lisa Salvador, Zhibing Zhang, Igor Kostetskii, Carmen J. Williams, Jerome F. Strauss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Cells that morphologically and functionally resemble male germ cells can be spontaneously derived from ES cells. However, this process is inefficient and unpredictable suggesting that the expression pattern of male germ cell associated genes during spontaneous ES cell differentiation does not mimic the in vivo profiles of the genes. Thus, in the present study, the temporal profile of genes expressed at different stages of male germ cell development was examined in differentiating ES cells. The effect of all-trans retinoic acid (RA) which is a known inducer of primordial germ cell (PGC) proliferation/survival in vitro and testosterone which is required for spermatogenesis in vivo on the expression of these genes was also determined. Each of the 12 genes analyzed exhibited one of four temporal expression patterns in untreated differentiating ES cells: progressively decreased (Dppa3, Sycp3, Msy2), initially low and then increased (Stra8, Sycp1, Dazl, Act, Prm1), initially decreased and then increased (Piwil2, Tex14), or relatively unchanged (Akap3, Odf2). RA-treated cells exhibited increased expression of Stra8, Dazl, Act, and Prm1 and suppressed expression of Dppa3 compared to untreated controls. Furthermore, testosterone increased expression of Stra8 while the combination of RA and testosterone synergistically increased expression of Act. Our findings establish a comprehensive profile of male germ cell gene expression during spontaneous differentiation of murine ES cells and describe the capacity of RA and testosterone to modulate the expression of these genes. Furthermore, these data represent an important first step in designing a plausible directed differentiation protocol for male germ cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-21
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Reproduction and Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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