Peroxiredoxins (PRDXs) are antioxidant enzymes that protect cells from oxidative stress and play a role in reactive oxygen species (ROS)-mediated signaling. We reported that PRDXs are critical for human fertility by maintaining sperm viability and regulating ROS levels during capacitation. Moreover, studies on Prdx6−/−
mice revealed the essential role of PRDX6 in the viability, motility, and fertility competence of spermatozoa. Although PRDXs are abundant in the testis and spermatozoa, their potential role at different phases of spermatogenesis and in perinatal germ cells is unknown. Here, we examined the expression and role of PRDXs in isolated rat neonatal gonocytes, the precursors of spermatogonia, including spermatogonial stem cells. Gene array, qPCR analyses showed that PRDX1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 transcripts are among the most abundant antioxidant genes in postnatal day (PND) 3 gonocytes, while immunofluorescence confirmed the expression of PRDX1, 2, and 6 proteins. The role of PRDXs in gonocyte viability was examined using PRDX inhibitors, revealing that the 2-Cys PRDXs and PRDX6 peroxidases activities are critical for gonocytes viability in basal condition, likely preventing an excessive accumulation of endogenous ROS in the cells. In contrast to its crucial role in spermatozoa, PRDX6 independent phospholipase A2
) activity was not critical in gonocytes in basal conditions. However, under conditions of H2
-induced oxidative stress, all these enzymatic activities were critical to maintain gonocyte viability. The inhibition of PRDXs promoted a two-fold increase in lipid peroxidation and prevented gonocyte differentiation. These results suggest that ROS are produced in neonatal gonocytes, where they are maintained by PRDXs at levels that are non-toxic and permissive for cell differentiation. These findings show that PRDXs play a major role in the antioxidant machinery of gonocytes, to maintain cell viability and allow for differentiation.
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