Adrenocorticotropic hormone affects nonapoptotic cell death of undifferentiated germ cells in the fetal mouse testis: In vivo study by exo utero transplantation of corticotropic tumor cells into embryos

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Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) has been suggested to have possible roles in the fetal testes, one of the organs that express its specific receptors, melanocortin type 2 and 5 receptors (MC2R and MC5R), during the fetal period. We investigated the effect of ACTH on the cells in the testis cord of the fetal mouse testis by inducing ACTH-secreting AtT20 tumor cells in mouse fetuses. We first identified that mouse testicular germ cells at embryonic day (E) 16.5 and E18.5 spermatogonia were entirely CDH1 (E-cadherin)-positive by immunohistochemistry. We next performed AtT20-cell transplantation into the mouse fetus at E12.5, and analyzed ACTH effects on the development of fetal male mouse germ cells that express MC2R and MC5R at E16.5 and E18.5. The spermatogonia in the testis of AtT20-implanted embryos exhibited morphological changes, including pyknotic nuclei and swollen cytoplasm. In the AtT20-implanted embryos, the number of spermatogonia per unit area of the testis cord was significantly lower, but there were more pyknotic spermatogonia than in the controls. Single-stranded DNA-positive (apoptotic) and histone H3-positive (mitotic) spermatogonia were rarely observed and their numbers did not significantly differ in the two groups. Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH)-positive Sertoli cells, another cell type that constitutes the fetal testis cord but does not express MC2R or MC5R, showed no apparent morphological changes compared with controls, nor were their numbers in the two groups significantly different between the two groups. These results suggest that ACTH, via MC2R and/or MC5R, may be involved in the nonapoptotic cell death of fetal mouse spermatogonia that is observed during the normal perinatal period.

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