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E4 Transcription Factor 1 (E4F1) Regulates Sertoli Cell Proliferation and Fertility in Mice

by 1,2, 3 and 1,4,*
1
Key Laboratory of Adaptation and Evolution of Plateau Biota, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810000, China
2
College of Life Science, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
3
Department of Veterinary Sciences, Qinghai Vocational Technical College of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary, Xining 810016, China
4
Qinghai Key Laboratory of Animal Ecological Genomics, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810001, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1691; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091691
Received: 10 August 2020 / Revised: 13 September 2020 / Accepted: 16 September 2020 / Published: 18 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Insights into Animal Spermatogenesis)
Male fertility relies on the generation of functional sperm in seminiferous tubules of the testis. In mammals, Sertoli cells are the only somatic cells that directly interact with spermatogenic cells. Compelling evidences suggest that the number of Sertoli cells determines testis size and sperm output, however, molecular mechanisms regulating Sertoli cell proliferation and maturation are not well-understood. Using a Sertoli cell specific loss-of-function approach, here we showed that transcription factor E4F1 played an important role in murine Sertoli cell proliferation. Compared with their littermate control, E4f1 conditional knockout male mice sired a significantly low number of pups. E4f1 deletion resulted in reduced Sertoli cell number and testis size. Further analyses revealed that E4f1 deletion affected Sertoli cell proliferation in the neonatal testis and caused an increase in apoptosis of spermatogenic cells without affecting normal development of spermatogonia, meiotic and post-meiotic germ cells. These findings have shed new light on molecular controlling of spermatogenesis in mice and a similar mechanism likely exists in other animals.
In the mammalian testes, Sertoli cells are the only somatic cells in the seminiferous tubules that provide structural, nutritional and regulatory support for developing spermatogenic cells. Sertoli cells only proliferate during the fetal and neonatal periods and enter a quiescent state after puberty. Functional evidences suggest that the size of Sertoli cell population determines sperm production and fertility. However, factors that direct Sertoli cell proliferation and maturation are not fully understood. Transcription factor E4F1 is a multifunctional protein that serves essential roles in cell fate decisions and because it interacts with pRB, a master regulator of Sertoli cell function, we hypothesized that E4F1 may have a functional role in Sertoli cells. E4f1 mRNA was present in murine testis and immunohistochemical staining confirmed that E4F1 was enriched in mature Sertoli cells. We generated a conditional knockout mouse model using Amh-cre and E4f1flox/flox lines to study E4F1 fucntion in Sertoli cells and the results showed that E4f1 deletion caused a significant reduction in testis size and fertility. Further analyses revealed that meiosis progression and spermiogenesis were normal, however, Sertoli cell proliferation was impaired and germ cell apoptosis was elevated in the testis of E4f1 conditional knockout mice. On the basis of these findings, we concluded that E4F1 was expressed in murine Sertoli cells and served important functions in regulating Sertoli cell proliferation and fertility. View Full-Text
Keywords: E4F1; sertoli cells; spermatogenesis; proliferation; fertility E4F1; sertoli cells; spermatogenesis; proliferation; fertility
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Yan, R.-G.; Yang, Q.-L.; Yang, Q.-E. E4 Transcription Factor 1 (E4F1) Regulates Sertoli Cell Proliferation and Fertility in Mice. Animals 2020, 10, 1691.

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