Proenkephalin Gene Expression in Testicular Interstitial Cells Is Down-Regulated Coincident with the Appearance of Pachytene Spermatocytes

Nitin D. Mehta, Jeremy Don, Steven A. Zinn, Clarke Millette, Debra J. Wolgemuth, Daniel L. Kilpatrick

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    Two distinct forms of proenkephalin messenger RNA (mRNA) are present in the murine testis, a family of 1.7 kilobases (kb), germ cell-specific transcripts and a 1.45-kb form that is also found in somatic tissues. In situ hybridization and molecular analysis of purified spermatogenic cell types were used to characterize the cellular localization of these different transcripts during development of the mouse testis. Both forms of proenkephalin mRNA were observed in isolated germ cells by RNA gel-blot analysis, but in distinct developmental patterns; the 1.7-kb transcripts were present in cells undergoing meiosis and spermiogenesis, whereas the 1.45-kb mRNA was detected primarily in type B spermatogonia. In contrast, in situ hybridization analysis did not detect significant amounts of the 1.45-kb transcript in any spermatogenic cell type. Using transcript-specific probes, distinct patterns of developmental expression were evident for the two mRNAs. The 1.45-kb transcript was the only form detected in the prepubertal testis, where it was localized mainly in interstitial cells. In contrast, the 1.7-kb transcripts were the major mRNAs observed in the adult testis and were localized to spermatogenic cells. A transition from the prepubertal to the adult pattern occurred on or about postnatal day 21, when proenkephalin-expressing pachytene spermatocytes begin to populate the seminiferous tubules. In situ hybridization analysis further demonstrated that proenkephalin gene expression in mutant (at/at) mice, which lack germ cells, was identical to that observed in the early prepubertal testis. These results suggest that the 1.45-kb proenkephalin mRNA is developmentally down-regulated in mouse interstitial cells and that this process requires ongoing spermatogenesis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1543-1550
    Number of pages8
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Oct 1994


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