Signaling molecules and pathways regulating the fate of spermatogonial stem cells

Authors

  • Zuping He,

    1. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20057
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  • Maria Kokkinaki,

    1. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20057
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  • Martin Dym

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20057
    • Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology, Georgetown University Medical Center, 3900 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC 20057, USA
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Abstract

Spermatogenesis is the process that involves the division and differentiation of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) into mature spermatozoa. SSCs are a subpopulation of type A spermatogonia resting on the basement membrane in the mammalian testis. Self-renewal and differentiation of SSCs are the foundation of normal spermatogenesis, and thus a better understanding of molecular mechanisms and signaling pathways in the SSCs is of paramount importance for the regulation of spermatogenesis and may eventually lead to novel targets for male contraception as well as for gene therapy of male infertility and testicular cancer. Uncovering the molecular mechanisms is also of great interest to a better understanding of SSC aging and for developing novel therapeutic strategies for degenerative diseases in view of the recent work demonstrating the pluripotent potential of the SSC. Progress has recently been made in elucidating the signaling molecules and pathways that determine cell fate decisions of SSCs. In this review, we first address the morphological features, phenotypic characteristics, and the potential of SSCs, and then we focus on the recent advances in defining the key signaling molecules and crucial signaling pathways regulating self-renewal and differentiation of SSCs. The association of aberrant expression of signaling molecules and cascades with abnormal spermatogenesis and testicular cancer are also discussed. Finally, we point out potential future directions to pursue in research on signaling pathways of SSCs. Microsc. Res. Tech., 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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