Differentiation of murine male germ cells to spermatozoa in a soft agar culture system

Mahmoud Abu Elhija, Eitan Lunenfeld, Stefan Schlatt, Mahmoud Huleihel

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106 Scopus citations


Establishment of an in vitro system that allows the development of testicular germ cells to sperm will be valuable for studies of spermatogenesis and future treatments for male infertility. In the present study, we developed in vitro culture conditions using three-dimensional agar culture system (SACS), which has the capacity to induce testicular germ cells to reach the final stages of spermatogenesis, including spermatozoa generation. Seminiferous tubules from testes of 7-day-old mice were enzymatically dissociated, and intratubular cells were cultured in the upper layer of the SACS in RPMI medium supplemented with fetal calf serum (FCS). The lower layer of the SACS contained only RPMI medium supplemented with FCS. Colonies in the upper layer were isolated after 14 and 28 days of culture and were classified according to their size. Immunofluorescence and real-time PCR were used to analyse specific markers expressed in undifferentiated and differentiated spermatogonia (Vasa, Dazl, OCT-4, C-Kit, GFR-Î ±-1, CD9 and Î ±-6-integrin), meiotic cells (LDH, Crem-1 and Boule) and post-meiotic cells (Protamine-1, Acrosin and SP-10). Our results reveal that it is possible to induce mouse testicular pre-meiotic germ cell expansion and induce their differentiation to spermatozoa in SACS. The spermatozoa showed normal morphology and contained acrosomes. Thus, our results demonstrate that SACS could be used as a novel in vitro system for the maturation of pre-meiotic mouse germ cells to post-meiotic stages and morphologically-normal spermatozoa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-293
Number of pages9
JournalAsian Journal of Andrology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2012


  • acrosome
  • agar
  • in vitro culture
  • meiosis
  • spermatogenesis
  • spermatogonia
  • spermatozoa
  • testis


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