• Male infertility;
  • SCF promoter;
  • c-kit gene mutations;
  • cAMP;
  • Sertoli cells

PROBLEM: Infertility, affects about 5% of human males and genetic factors are recognized in approximately 30% of them. The mouse represents a good model to study autosomal genes that might play a role in spermatogenesis. In mice, mutations in the c-kit gene and in the gene encoding stem cell factor (SCF) cause pleiotropic defects among which sterility. A possible involvement of the SCF/c-kit system in human spermatogenesis was investigated.

METHODS OF STUDY: A group of 65 idiopathic azoospermic patients was screened for the presence of mutations in the human c-kit gene codon encoding tyrosine 721 (Y721), analogous to Y719 in the murine c-kit gene (a residue known to be essential for a normal spermatogonial proliferation). Furthermore we have used a mouse model for studying the molecular mechanisms that regulate the transcription of the endogenous SCF gene.

RESULTS: No mutations have been detected on codon encoding Y721 of the human c-kit gene, in our group of infertile patients.

CONCLUSIONS: A larger group of azoospermic patients, including preferentially patients affected by Sertoli-cell-only syndrome, should be screened in order to exclude a role of c-kit mutations in Y721 in spermatogenesis defects.

In this study we also show that the murine SCF promoter is transcriptionally active and stimulated by follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), 3′-5′ cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) analogs, and IBMX in primary mouse Sertoli cells, and that the cAMP effect is cell-specific, as the SCF promoter is not stimulated in other SCF-expressing cell types tested.