Open Access
Signaling events during male germ cell differentiation: bases and perspectives
G Berruti1
Dipartimento di Biologia, Università di Milano, via Celoria 26, 20133 Milano, Italy
DOI: 10.2741/A347 Volume 3 Issue 4, pp.1097-1108
Published: 01 November 1998
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sperm biology, from basic to clinic)

In all species, reproductive function depends on the ability of the individual to produce functional differentiated gametes. Spermatogenesis is a cyclic process in which diploid spermatogonia differentiate into mature haploid spermatozoa. Thus from a genetic point of view, spermatogenesis can be divided into two phases, namely the diploid and haploid phase. Indeed, this complex differentiation process is still more intriguing since primary spermatocytes, if genetically diploid, are functionally tetraploid, while elongating spermatids, the germ cells undergoing the most dramatic morphological changes, if genetically haploid, become functionally anucleate due to ongoing condensation of chromatin resulting in an inactive nuclear DNA. This multi-step differentiative pathway is dependent on a specific environment provided by the anatomical and cellular relationships that take place in the testis and more specifically within the seminiferous tubules. Already, early anatomists (mind comes to Enrico Sertoli and Gustaf Retzius) were fascinated by the mixed cellular composition of the testis correctly deciphered as a whole of interacting and interdependent cell types despite the fact these belong to two well-established and different cell lineages, i.e, the somatic and germinal line. Since their time (the XIX century) up to-day a conspicuous bulk of experimental work and a relative massive bibliographic documentation have been provided. From this it stands out : a) a sophisticated role played by the cyclic hormonal control elicited by the hypothalamic-pituitary axis; b) the structural membrane specializations of Sertoli-germ cell communications; c) the existence and action of a paracrine and autocrine testicular regulative secretion; d) a regulation of germ cell gene expression, highly specialized both at transcriptional, posttranscriptional, and translational level; e) an active participation of the haploid genome in the final steps of cell differentiation. Each of these points has been the matter of several more and less recent reviews to which the present author hands back in the course of this note. However all these points, although topics of separate and extensive treatises, are conceptually jointed by a 'leit-motiv', that is, the intracellular transduction of an exogenous signal evoking a specific stimulatory/inhibitory, proliferative/differentiative event. The spirit with which the present author interpreted this minireview was to recall some points to which to draw attention having as a scenario the complex process of male germ cell differentiation in mammals.

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G Berruti. Signaling events during male germ cell differentiation: bases and perspectives. Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark. 1998. 3(4); 1097-1108.