Regulatory Mechanism of Spermatogenic Stem Cells in Mice: Their Dynamic and Context-Dependent Behavior

Part of the Diversity and Commonality in Animals book series (DCA)


The germline is the only cell type that is inherited by the next generation in many multicellular animals. For the purposes of successful reproduction, animals need to produce enough gametes for a sufficient duration of time. It is also crucial to adjust the production of gametes according to the reproduction strategy that each species uniquely develops. In many animals, these features of germ cells are provided by the function of stem cells. Stem cells by definition continually produce differentiating cells (e.g., spermatozoa) while maintaining their own population, viz. the stem cell pool. Mammalian spermatogenic stem cells (also termed spermatogonial stem cells or SSCs) represent the most studied stem cell types, and have been providing important insights into not only the biology of reproduction but also for stem cell research in general. This chapter describes the current position of mammalian (mostly mouse) spermatogenic stem cell research, as well as its future directions. First, in contrast to a general thought that stem cell division always gives rise to one self-renewing and one differentiating daughter cell, the spermatogenic stem cell of each mouse follows a variable fate. Their self-renewal and differentiation is balanced at the level of population; such stem cell dynamics are designated as “population asymmetry.” Second, the current knowledge regarding the identity of “actual” stem cells (cells that support homeostatic spermatogenesis) and their in vivo dynamics will be discussed. Third, our focus will move on to the flexible change of the stem cell behavior depending on tissue contexts; some spermatogonia act as “potential” stem cells which differentiate under homeostasis but contribute to post-insult regeneration or post-transplantation colony formation. Finally, our current knowledge and upcoming questions about the “facultative” or “open” stem cell niche for mouse spermatogenesis will be discussed.


Spermatogenesis Spermatogonia Testis Mouse Stem cells Seminiferous tubules Stem cell niche Population asymmetry Intravital live imaging Pulse-labeling 



The author thanks Kazuya Kobayashi for providing this invaluable opportunity to contribute to this chapter. I also express my deep appreciation to my laboratory members, collaborators, and all the colleagues, for continual and passionate interplay. Funding by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan, by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), and by Precursory Research for Embryonic Science and Technology (PRESTO) from Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), as well as institutional support from the National Institute for Basic Biology (NIBB) are also appreciated.


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© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Germ Cell Biology, National Institute for Basic Biology, National Institutes of Natural Sciences, and Department of Basic Biology, School of Life ScienceGraduate University for Advanced Studies (Sokendai)OkazakiJapan

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