Author(s): Oatley JM, Brinster RL
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Abstract This review addresses current understanding of the germline stem cell niche unit in mammalian testes. Spermatogenesis is a classic model of tissue-specific stem cell function relying on self-renewal and differentiation of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). These fate decisions are influenced by a niche microenvironment composed of a growth factor milieu that is provided by several testis somatic support cell populations. Investigations over the last two decades have identified key determinants of the SSC niche including cytokines that regulate SSC functions and support cells providing these factors, adhesion molecules that influence SSC homing, and developmental heterogeneity of the niche during postnatal aging. Emerging evidence suggests that Sertoli cells are a key support cell population influencing the formation and function of niches by secreting soluble factors and possibly orchestrating contributions of other support cells. Investigations with mice have shown that niche influence on SSC proliferation differs during early postnatal development and adulthood. Moreover, there is mounting evidence of an age-related decline in niche function, which is likely influenced by systemic factors. Defining the attributes of stem cell niches is key to developing methods to utilize these cells for regenerative medicine. The SSC population and associated niche comprise a valuable model system for study that provides fundamental knowledge about the biology of tissue-specific stem cells and their capacity to sustain homeostasis of regenerating tissue lineages. While the stem cell is essential for maintenance of all self-renewing tissues and has received considerable attention, the role of niche cells is at least as important and may prove to be more receptive to modification in regenerative medicine.
This article was published in Physiol Rev
and referenced in Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy