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Developmental Expression of the Translocator Protein 18 kDa (TSPO) in Testicular Germ Cells

[ Vol. 12 , Issue. 4 ]


G. Manku, Y. Wang, R. Thuillier, C. Rhodes and M. Culty   Pages 467 - 475 ( 9 )


Translocator protein (TSPO) is a high affinity 18 kDa drug- and cholesterol-binding protein strongly expressed in steroidogenic tissues where it mediates cholesterol transport into mitochondria and steroid formation. Testosterone formation by Leydig cells in the testis is critical for the regulation of spermatogenesis and male fertility. Male germ cell development comprises two main phases, the pre-spermatogenesis phase occurring from fetal life to infancy and leading to spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) formation, and spermatogenesis, which consists of repetitive cycles of germ cell mitosis, meiosis and differentiation, starting with SSC differentiation and ending with spermiogenesis and spermatozoa formation. Little is known about the molecular mechanisms controlling the progression from one germ cell phenotype to the next. Here, we report that testicular germ cells express TSPO from neonatal to adult phases, although at lower levels than Leydig cells. TSPO mRNA and protein were found at specific steps of germ cell development. In fetal and neonatal gonocytes, the precursors of SSCs, TSPO appears to be mainly nuclear. In the prepubertal testis, TSPO is present in pachytene spermatocytes and dividing spermatogonia. In adult testes, it is found in a stagedependent manner in pachytene spermatocyte and round spermatid nuclei, and in mitotic spermatogonia. In search of TSPO function, the TSPO drug ligand PK 11195 was added to isolated gonocytes with or without the proliferative factors PDGF and 17β-estradiol, and was found to have no effect on gonocyte proliferation. However, TSPO strong expression in dividing spermatogonia suggests that it might play a role in spermatogonial mitosis. Taken together, these results suggest that TSPO plays a role in specific phases of germ cell development.


Development, germ cells, testis, TSPO


Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal General Hospital, 1650 Cedar Avenue, Room C10.148.2, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1A4 Canada.

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