Conditions for Long-Term Culture of Cattle Undifferentiated Spermatogonia1

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Continual and robust spermatogenesis relies on the actions of an undifferentiated spermatogonial population that contains stem cells. A remarkable feature of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) is the capacity to regenerate spermatogenesis following isolation from a donor testis and transplantation into a permissive recipient testis. This capacity has enormous potential as a tool for enhancing the reproductive capacity of livestock, which can improve production efficiency. Because SSCs are a rare subset of the undifferentiated spermatogonial population, a period of in vitro amplification in number following isolation from donor testicular tissue is essential. Here, we describe methodology for isolation of a cell fraction from prepubertal bull testes that is enriched for undifferentiated spermatogonia and long-term maintenance of the cells in both the feeder cell coculture and the feeder-free format. To achieve this method, we derived bovine fetal fibroblasts (BFF) to serve as feeders for optimizing medium conditions that promote maintenance of bovine undifferentiated spermatogonia for at least 2 mo. In addition, we devised a feeder-free system with BFF-conditioned medium that sustained bovine undifferentiated spermatogonia for at least 1 mo in vitro. The methodologies described could be optimized to provide platforms for exponential expansion of bovine SSCs that will provide the numbers needed for transplantation into recipient testes.

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