During spermatogenesis in mammals and in Drosophila melanogaster, male germ cells develop in a series of essential developmental processes. This includes differentiation from a stem cell population, mitotic amplification, and meiosis. In addition, post-meiotic germ cells undergo a dramatic morphological reshaping process as well as a global epigenetic reconfiguration of the germ line chromatin—the histone-to-protamine switch.
Studying the role of a protein in post-meiotic spermatogenesis using mutagenesis or other genetic tools is often impeded by essential embryonic, pre-meiotic, or meiotic functions of the protein under investigation. The post-meiotic phenotype of a mutant of such a protein could be obscured through an earlier developmental block, or the interpretation of the phenotype could be complicated. The model organism Drosophila melanogaster offers a bypass to this problem: intact testes and even cysts of germ cells dissected from early pupae are able to develop ex vivo in culture medium. Making use of such cultures allows microscopic imaging of living germ cells in testes and of germ-line cysts. Importantly, the cultivated testes and germ cells also become accessible to pharmacological inhibitors, thereby permitting manipulation of enzymatic functions during spermatogenesis, including post-meiotic stages.
The protocol presented describes how to dissect and cultivate pupal testes and germ-line cysts. Information on the development of pupal testes and culture conditions are provided alongside microscope imaging data of live testes and germ-line cysts in culture. We also describe a pharmacological assay to study post-meiotic spermatogenesis, exemplified by an assay targeting the histone-to-protamine switch using the histone acetyltransferase inhibitor anacardic acid. In principle, this cultivation method could be adapted to address many other research questions in pre- and post-meiotic spermatogenesis.
14 Related JoVE Articles!
Separation of Spermatogenic Cell Types Using STA-PUT Velocity Sedimentation
Institutions: University of Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania.
Mammalian spermatogenesis is a complex differentiation process that occurs in several stages in the seminiferous tubules of the testes. Currently, there is no reliable cell culture system allowing for spermatogenic differentiation in vitro
, and most biological studies of spermatogenic cells require tissue harvest from animal models like the mouse and rat. Because the testis contains numerous cell types - both non-spermatogenic (Leydig, Sertoli, myeloid, and epithelial cells) and spermatogenic (spermatogonia, spermatocytes, round spermatids, condensing spermatids and spermatozoa) - studies of the biological mechanisms involved in spermatogenesis require the isolation and enrichment of these different cell types. The STA-PUT method allows for the separation of a heterogeneous population of cells - in this case, from the testes - through a linear BSA gradient. Individual cell types sediment with different sedimentation velocity according to cell size, and fractions enriched for different cell types can be collected and utilized in further analyses. While the STA-PUT method does not result in highly pure fractions of cell types, e.g.
as can be obtained with certain cell sorting methods, it does provide a much higher yield of total cells in each fraction (~1 x 108
cells/spermatogenic cell type from a starting population of 7-8 x 108
cells). This high yield method requires only specialized glassware and can be performed in any cold room or large refrigerator, making it an ideal method for labs that have limited access to specialized equipment like a fluorescence activated cell sorter (FACS) or elutriator.
Cellular Biology, Issue 80, Developmental Biology, Spermatogenesis, STA-PUT, cell separation, Spermatogenesis, spermatids, spermatocytes, spermatogonia, sperm, velocity sedimentation
Slide Preparation Method to Preserve Three-dimensional Chromatin Architecture of Testicular Germ Cells
Institutions: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
During testicular germ cell differentiation, the structure of nuclear chromatin dynamically changes. The following describes a method designed to preserve the three-dimensional chromatin arrangement of testicular germ cells found in mice; this method has been termed as the three-dimensional (3D) slide method. In this method, testicular tubules are directly treated with a permeabilization step that removes cytoplasmic material, followed by a fixation step that fixes nuclear materials. Tubules are then dissociated, the cell suspension is cytospun, and cells adhere to slides. This method improves sensitivity towards detection of subnuclear structures and is applicable for immunofluorescence, DNA, and RNA fluorescence in situ
hybridization (FISH) and the combination of these detection methods. As an example of a possible application of the 3D slide method, a Cot-1 RNA FISH is shown to detect nascent RNAs. The 3D slide method will facilitate the detailed examination of spatial relationships between chromatin structure, DNA, and RNA during testicular germ cell differentiation.
Basic Protocol, Issue 83, Chromatin, Germ cells, Sex chromosomes, Testis, Meiotic sex chromosome inactivation, Postmeiotic sex chromatin
Cytological Analysis of Spermatogenesis: Live and Fixed Preparations of Drosophila Testes
Institutions: Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
is a powerful model system that has been widely used to elucidate a variety of biological processes. For example, studies of both the female and male germ lines of Drosophila
have contributed greatly to the current understanding of meiosis as well as stem cell biology. Excellent protocols are available in the literature for the isolation and imaging of Drosophila
ovaries and testes3-12
. Herein, methods for the dissection and preparation of Drosophila
testes for microscopic analysis are described with an accompanying video demonstration. A protocol for isolating testes from the abdomen of adult males and preparing slides of live tissue for analysis by phase-contrast microscopy as well as a protocol for fixing and immunostaining testes for analysis by fluorescence microscopy are presented. These techniques can be applied in the characterization of Drosophila
mutants that exhibit defects in spermatogenesis as well as in the visualization of subcellular localizations of proteins.
Basic Protocol, Issue 83, Drosophila melanogaster, dissection, testes, spermatogenesis, meiosis, germ cells, phase-contrast microscopy, immunofluorescence
Germ Cell Transplantation and Testis Tissue Xenografting in Mice
Institutions: University of Calgary .
Germ cell transplantation was developed by Dr. Ralph Brinster and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania in 19941,2
. These ground-breaking studies showed that microinjection of germ cells from fertile donor mice into the seminiferous tubules of infertile recipient mice results in donor-derived spermatogenesis and sperm production by the recipient animal2
. The use of donor males carrying the bacterial β-galactosidase gene allowed identification of donor-derived spermatogenesis and transmission of the donor haplotype to the offspring by recipient animals1
. Surprisingly, after transplantation into the lumen of the seminiferous tubules, transplanted germ cells were able to move from the luminal compartment to the basement membrane where spermatogonia are located3
. It is generally accepted that only SSCs are able to colonize the niche and re-establish spermatogenesis in the recipient testis. Therefore, germ cell transplantation provides a functional approach to study the stem cell niche in the testis and to characterize putative spermatogonial stem cells. To date, germ cell transplantation is used to elucidate basic stem cell biology, to produce transgenic animals through genetic manipulation of germ cells prior to transplantation4,5
, to study Sertoli cell-germ cell interaction6,7
, SSC homing and colonization3,8
, as well as SSC self-renewal and differentiation9,10
Germ cell transplantation is also feasible in large species11
. In these, the main applications are preservation of fertility, dissemination of elite genetics in animal populations, and generation of transgenic animals as the study of spermatogenesis and SSC biology with this technique is logistically more difficult and expensive than in rodents. Transplantation of germ cells from large species into the seminiferous tubules of mice results in colonization of donor cells and spermatogonial expansion, but not in their full differentiation presumably due to incompatibility of the recipient somatic cell compartment with the germ cells from phylogenetically distant species12
. An alternative approach is transplantation of germ cells from large species together with their surrounding somatic compartment. We first reported in 2002, that small fragments of testis tissue from immature males transplanted under the dorsal skin of immunodeficient mice are able to survive and undergo full development with the production of fertilization competent sperm13
. Since then testis tissue xenografting has been shown to be successful in many species and emerged as a valuable alternative to study testis development and spermatogenesis of large animals in mice14
Developmental Biology, Issue 60, Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), germ cell transplantation, spermatogenesis, testis development, testis tissue xenografting
Isolation and In vitro Activation of Caenorhabditis elegans Sperm
Institutions: Rutgers University.
Males and hermaphrodites are the two naturally found sexual forms in the nematode C. elegans
. The amoeboid sperm are produced by both males and hermaphrodites. In the earlier phase of gametogenesis, the germ cells of hermaphrodites differentiate into limited number of sperm - around 300 - and are stored in a small 'bag' called the spermatheca. Later on, hermaphrodites continually produce oocytes1
. In contrast, males produce exclusively sperm throughout their adulthood. The males produce so much sperm that it accounts for >50% of the total cells in a typical adult worm2
. Therefore, isolating sperm from males is easier than from that of hermaphrodites.
Only a small proportion of males are naturally generated due to spontaneous non-disjunction of X chromosome3
. Crossing hermaphrodites with males or more conveniently, the introduction of mutations to give rise to Him (High Incidence of Males) phenotype are some of strategies through which one can enrich the male population3
Males can be easily distinguished from hermaphrodites by observing the tail morphology4
. Hermaphrodite's tail is pointed, whereas male tail is rounded with mating structures.
Cutting the tail releases vast number of spermatids stored inside the male reproductive tract. Dissection is performed under a stereo microscope using 27 gauge needles. Since spermatids are not physically connected with any other cells, hydraulic pressure expels internal contents of male body, including spermatids2
Males are directly dissected on a small drop of 'Sperm Medium'. Spermatids are sensitive to alteration in the pH. Hence, HEPES, a compound with good buffering capacity is used in sperm media. Glucose and other salts present in sperm media help maintain osmotic pressure to maintain the integrity of sperm.
Post-meiotic differentiation of spermatids into spermatozoa is termed spermiogenesis or sperm activation. Shakes5
, and Nelson6
previously showed that round spermatids can be induced to differentiate into spermatozoa by adding various activating compounds including Pronase E. Here we demonstrate in vitro
spermiogenesis of C. elegans
spermatids using Pronase E.
Successful spermiogenesis is pre-requisite for fertility and hence the mutants defective in spermiogenesis are sterile. Hitherto several mutants have been shown to be defective specifically in spermiogenesis process7
. Abnormality found during in vitro
activation of novel Spe (Spermatogenesis defective) mutants would help us discover additional players participating in this event.
Developmental Biology, Issue 47, spermatid, spermatozoa, spermiogenesis, protease, pseudopod, nematode
Modified Mouse Embryonic Stem Cell based Assay for Quantifying Cardiogenic Induction Efficiency
Institutions: Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Veterans Administration TVHS.
Differentiation of pluripotent stem cells is tightly controlled by temporal and spatial regulation of multiple key signaling pathways. One of the hurdles to its understanding has been the varied methods in correlating changes of key signaling events to differentiation efficiency. We describe here the use of a mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell based assay to identify critical time windows for Wnt/β-catenin and BMP signal activation during cardiogenic induction. By scoring for contracting embryonic bodies (EBs) in a 96-well plate format, we can quickly quantify cardiogenic efficiency and identify crucial time windows for Wnt/β-catenin and BMP signal activation in a time course following specific modulator treatments. The principal outlined here is not limited to cardiac induction alone, and can be applied towards the study of many other cell lineages. In addition, the 96-well format has the potential to be further developed as a high throughput, automated assay to allow for the testing of more sophisticated experimental hypotheses.
Cellular Biology, Issue 50, Embryonic stem cells (ES) cells, embryonic bodies (EB), signaling pathways, modulators, 96-round bottom well microtiter plates and hanging droplets.
Sonication-facilitated Immunofluorescence Staining of Late-stage Embryonic and Larval Drosophila Tissues In Situ
Institutions: College of William & Mary.
Studies performed in Drosophila melanogaster
embryos and larvae provide crucial insight into developmental processes such as cell fate specification and organogenesis. Immunostaining allows for the visualization of developing tissues and organs. However, a protective cuticle that forms at the end of embryogenesis prevents permeation of antibodies into late-stage embryos and larvae. While dissection prior to immunostaining is regularly used to analyze Drosophila
larval tissues, it proves inefficient for some analyses because small tissues may be difficult to locate and isolate. Sonication provides an alternative to dissection in larval Drosophila
immunostaining protocols. It allows for quick, simultaneous processing of large numbers of late-stage embryos and larvae and maintains in situ
morphology. After fixation in formaldehyde, a sample is sonicated. Sample is then subjected to immunostaining with antigen-specific primary antibodies and fluorescently labeled secondary antibodies to visualize target cell types and specific proteins via fluorescence microscopy. During the process of sonication, proper placement of a sonicating probe above the sample, as well as the duration and intensity of sonication, is critical. Additonal minor modifications to standard immunostaining protocols may be required for high quality stains. For antibodies with low signal to noise ratio, longer incubation times are typically necessary. As a proof of concept for this sonication-facilitated protocol, we show immunostains of three tissue types (testes, ovaries, and neural tissues) at a range of developmental stages.
Molecular Biology, Issue 90,
Drosophila, embryo, larvae, sonication, fixation, immunostain, immunofluorescence, organogenesis, development
In Vivo Microinjection and Electroporation of Mouse Testis
Institutions: Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN).
This video and article contribution gives a comprehensive description of microinjection and electroporation of mouse testis in vivo
. This particular transfection technique for testicular mouse cells allows the study of unique processes in spermatogenesis.
The following protocol focuses on transfection of testicular mouse cells with plasmid constructs. Specifically, we used the reporter vector pEGFP-C1, which expresses enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) and also the pDsRed2-N1 vector expressing red fluorescent protein (DsRed2). Both encoded reporter genes were under the control of the human cytomegalovirus immediate-early promoter (CMV).
For performing gene transfer into mouse testes, the reporter plasmid constructs are injected into testes of living mice. To that end, the testis of an anaesthetized animal is exposed and the site of microinjection is prepared. Our preferred place of injection is the efferent duct, with the ultimately connected rete testis as the anatomical transport route of the spermatozoa between the testis and the epididymis. In this way, the filling of the seminiferous tubules after microinjection is excellently managed and controlled due to the use of stained DNA solutions. After observing a sufficient filling of the testis by its colored tubule structure, the organ is electroporated. This enables the transfer of the DNA solution into the testicular cells. Following 3 days of incubation, the testis is removed and investigated under the microscope for green or red fluorescence, illustrating transfection success.
Generally, this protocol can be employed for delivering DNA- or RNA- constructs into living mouse testis in order to (over)express or knock down genes, facilitating in vivo
gene function analysis. Furthermore, it is suitable for studying reporter constructs or putative gene regulatory elements. Thus, the main advantages of the electroporation technique are fast performance in combination with low effort as well as the moderate technical equipment and skills required compared to alternative techniques.
Molecular Biology, Issue 90, electroporation, transfection, microinjection, testis, sperm, spermatogenesis, reproduction
Flow Cytometry Purification of Mouse Meiotic Cells
Institutions: The Scripps Research Institute, The Scripps Research Institute.
The heterogeneous nature of cell types in the testis and the absence of meiotic cell culture models have been significant hurdles to the study of the unique differentiation programs that are manifest during meiosis. Two principal methods have been developed to purify, to varying degrees, various meiotic fractions from both adult and immature animals: elutriation or Staput (sedimentation) using BSA and/or percoll gradients. Both of these methods rely on cell size and density to separate meiotic cells1-5
. Overall, except for few cell populations6
, these protocols fail to yield sufficient purity of the numerous meiotic cell populations that are necessary for detailed molecular analyses. Moreover, with such methods usually one type of meiotic cells can be purified at a given time, which adds an extra level of complexity regarding the reproducibility and homogeneity when comparing meiotic cell samples.
Here, we describe a refined method that allows one to easily visualize, identify, and purify meiotic cells, from germ cells to round spermatids, using FACS combined with Hoechst 33342 staining7,8
. This method provides an overall snapshot of the entire meiotic process and allows one to highly purify viable cells from most stage of meiosis. These purified cells can then be analyzed in detail for molecular changes that accompany progression through meiosis, for example changes in gene expression9,10
and the dynamics of nucleosome occupancy at hotspots of meiotic recombination11
Cellular Biology, Issue 50, meiosis, mouse, FACS, purification, testis
Differentiation of Newborn Mouse Skin Derived Stem Cells into Germ-like Cells In vitro
Institutions: The University of Western Ontario, Children's Health Research Institute.
Studying germ cell formation and differentiation has traditionally been very difficult due to low cell numbers and their location deep within developing embryos. The availability of a "closed" in vitro
based system could prove invaluable for our understanding of gametogenesis. The formation of oocyte-like cells (OLCs) from somatic stem cells, isolated from newborn mouse skin, has been demonstrated and can be visualized in this video protocol. The resulting OLCs express various markers consistent with oocytes such as Oct4 , Vasa , Bmp15
, and Scp3
. However, they remain unable to undergo maturation or fertilization due to a failure to complete meiosis. This protocol will provide a system that is useful for studying the early stage formation and differentiation of germ cells into more mature gametes. During early differentiation the number of cells expressing Oct4 (potential germ-like cells) reaches ~5%, however currently the formation of OLCs remains relatively inefficient. The protocol is relatively straight forward though special care should be taken to ensure the starting cell population is healthy and at an early passage.
Stem Cell Biology, Issue 77, Developmental Biology, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Bioengineering, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Physiology, Adult Stem Cells, Pluripotent Stem Cells, Germ Cells, Oocytes, Reproductive Physiological Processes, Stem cell, skin, germ cell, oocyte, cell, differentiation, cell culture, mouse, animal model
Imaging Centrosomes in Fly Testes
Institutions: University of Toledo.
Centrosomes are conserved microtubule-based organelles whose structure and function change dramatically throughout the cell cycle and cell differentiation. Centrosomes are essential to determine the cell division axis during mitosis and to nucleate cilia during interphase. The identity of the proteins that mediate these dynamic changes remains only partially known, and the function of many of the proteins that have been implicated in these processes is still rudimentary. Recent work has shown that Drosophila
spermatogenesis provides a powerful system to identify new proteins critical for centrosome function and formation as well as to gain insight into the particular function of known players in centrosome-related processes. Drosophila
is an established genetic model organism where mutants in centrosomal genes can be readily obtained and easily analyzed. Furthermore, recent advances in the sensitivity and resolution of light microscopy and the development of robust genetically tagged centrosomal markers have transformed the ability to use Drosophila
testes as a simple and accessible model system to study centrosomes. This paper describes the use of genetically-tagged centrosomal markers to perform genetic screens for new centrosomal mutants and to gain insight into the specific function of newly identified genes.
Developmental Biology, Issue 79, biology (general), genetics (animal and plant), animal biology, animal models, Life Sciences (General), Centrosome, Spermatogenesis, Spermiogenesis, Drosophila, Centriole, Cilium, Mitosis, Meiosis
Transgenic Rodent Assay for Quantifying Male Germ Cell Mutant Frequency
Institutions: Environmental Health Centre.
mutations arise mostly in the male germline and may contribute to adverse health outcomes in subsequent generations. Traditional methods for assessing the induction of germ cell mutations require the use of large numbers of animals, making them impractical. As such, germ cell mutagenicity is rarely assessed during chemical testing and risk assessment. Herein, we describe an in vivo
male germ cell mutation assay using a transgenic rodent model that is based on a recently approved Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) test guideline. This method uses an in vitro
positive selection assay to measure in vivo
mutations induced in a transgenic λgt10 vector bearing a reporter gene directly in the germ cells of exposed males. We further describe how the detection of mutations in the transgene recovered from germ cells can be used to characterize the stage-specific sensitivity of the various spermatogenic cell types to mutagen exposure by controlling three experimental parameters: the duration of exposure (administration time), the time between exposure and sample collection (sampling time), and the cell population collected for analysis. Because a large number of germ cells can be assayed from a single male, this method has superior sensitivity compared with traditional methods, requires fewer animals and therefore much less time and resources.
Genetics, Issue 90, sperm, spermatogonia, male germ cells, spermatogenesis, de novo mutation, OECD TG 488, transgenic rodent mutation assay, N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea, genetic toxicology
Reconstitution Of β-catenin Degradation In Xenopus Egg Extract
Institutions: Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
egg extract is a well-characterized, robust system for studying the biochemistry of diverse cellular processes. Xenopus
egg extract has been used to study protein turnover in many cellular contexts, including the cell cycle and signal transduction pathways1-3
. Herein, a method is described for isolating Xenopus
egg extract that has been optimized to promote the degradation of the critical Wnt pathway component, β-catenin. Two different methods are described to assess β-catenin protein degradation in Xenopus
egg extract. One method is visually informative ([35
S]-radiolabeled proteins), while the other is more readily scaled for high-throughput assays (firefly luciferase-tagged fusion proteins). The techniques described can be used to, but are not limited to, assess β-catenin protein turnover and identify molecular components contributing to its turnover. Additionally, the ability to purify large volumes of homogenous Xenopus
egg extract combined with the quantitative and facile readout of luciferase-tagged proteins allows this system to be easily adapted for high-throughput screening for modulators of β-catenin degradation.
Molecular Biology, Issue 88, Xenopus laevis, Xenopus egg extracts, protein degradation, radiolabel, luciferase, autoradiography, high-throughput screening
Teratoma Generation in the Testis Capsule
Institutions: Scripps Research Institute, Scripps Research Institute , University of California.
Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) have the unique characteristic that they can differentiate into cells from all three germ layers. This makes them a potentially valuable tool for the treatment of many different diseases. With the advent of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and continuing research with human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) there is a need for assays that can demonstrate that a particular cell line is pluripotent. Germline transmission has been the gold standard for demonstrating the pluripotence of mouse embryonic stem cell (mESC) lines1,2,3
. Using this assay, researchers can show that a mESC line can make all cell types in the embryo including germ cells4
. With the generation of human ESC lines5,6
, the appropriate assay to prove pluripotence of these cells was unclear since human ESCs cannot be tested for germline transmission. As a surrogate, the teratoma assay is currently used to demonstrate the pluripotency of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs)7,8,9
. Though this assay has recently come under scrutiny and new technologies are being actively explored, the teratoma assay is the current gold standard7
. In this assay, the cells in question are injected into an immune compromised mouse. If the cells are pluripotent, a teratoma will eventually develop and sections of the tumor will show tissues from all 3 germ layers10
. In the teratoma assay, hPSCs can be injected into different areas of the mouse. The most common injection sites include the testis capsule, the kidney capsule, the liver; or into the leg either subcutaneously or intramuscularly11
. Here we describe a robust protocol for the generation of teratomas from hPSCs using the testis capsule as the site for tumor growth.
Medicine, Issue 57, stem cells, pluripotent stem cells, hPSCs, teratoma assay, animal model, mouse testis capsule