DDX4-EGFPtransgenic rat model for the study of germline development and spermatogenesis †

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Abstract

Spermatogonial stem cells (SSC) are essential for spermatogenesis and male fertility. In addition, these adult tissue stem cells can be used as vehicles for germline modification in animal models and may have application for treating male infertility. To facilitate the investigation of SSCs and germ lineage development in rats, we generated a DEAD-box helicase 4 (DDX4) (VASA) promoter-enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) reporter transgenic rat. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and immunofluorescence confirmed that EGFP was expressed in the germ cells of the ovaries and testes and was absent in somatic cells and tissues. Germ cell transplantation demonstrated that the EGFP-positive germ cell population from DDX4-EGFP rat testes contained SSCs capable of establishing spermatogenesis in experimentally infertile mouse recipient testes. EGFP-positive germ cells could be easily isolated by fluorescence-activated cells sorting, while simultaneously removing testicular somatic cells from DDX4-EGFP rat pup testes. The EGFP-positive fraction provided an optimal cell suspension to establish rat SSC cultures that maintained long-term expression of zinc finger and BTB domain containing 16 (ZBTB16) and spalt-like transcription factor 4 (SALL4), two markers of mouse SSCs that are conserved in rats. The novel DDX4-EGFP germ cell reporter rat described here combined with previously described GCS-EGFP rats, rat SSC culture and gene editing tools will improve the utility of the rat model for studying stem cells and germ lineage development.

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