Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 324, Issue 3, pp 507–521 | Cite as

Organotypic culture, a powerful model for studying rat and mouse fetal testis development

  • Gabriel Livera
  • Géraldine Delbes
  • Catherine Pairault
  • Virginie Rouiller-Fabre
  • René Habert
Regular Article


The key role of the fetal testis in the masculinization of genital organs has been known for a long time. More recently, the observed increases in male reproductive disorders has been postulated to be the result of changes in fetal and neonatal testis development in response to increasing environmental pollution. However, few tools are available for studying fetal testis development and the effects of physiological or toxic substances. We have developed an organ culture system in which rat fetal testis is grown on a filter floating on a synthetic medium containing no serum, hormones or biological factors. In this study, we have compared the long-term morpho-functional development of the various testicular cell types in this system with that observed in vivo and have extended this system to the mouse. Rat Leydig, Sertoli and germ cells and macrophages develop normally over a period of 1–2 weeks in this system. Fewer cells are produced than in vivo but the level of differentiated function is similar. Germ cells, which are difficult to culture in vitro, resume mitosis after a quiescent period, at the same time as in vivo. Similar results have been obtained with mouse fetuses, except that Leydig cells dedifferentiate in vitro if the testis is explanted after 13.5 days post conception. Testicular architecture and intercellular communication are sufficiently preserved for the development of the main fetal and neonatal testicular cell types in vitro with no added factors. Our floating-filter organotypic culture system in synthetic medium therefore allows the morpho-functional development of somatic and germ cells in fetal testis explants taken at all developmental stages in rat and at early stages in mouse. This method is potentially useful for studies of the effects of various factors, and of xenobiotics, in particular.


Fetus Neonate Testis Germ cell Organ culture Development Rat (Sprague Dawley) Mouse (C57BL/6) 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabriel Livera
    • 1
  • Géraldine Delbes
    • 1
  • Catherine Pairault
    • 1
  • Virginie Rouiller-Fabre
    • 1
  • René Habert
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Differentiation and Radiobiology of the Gonads, Research Unit on Gametogenesis and GenotoxicityUniversité Paris 7; CEA; INSERM U566, DSV/DRR/SEGG/LDRGFontenay aux RosesFrance

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