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
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.
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