Specific Transcriptomic Signatures and Dual Regulation of Steroidogenesis Between Fetal and Adult Mouse Leydig Cells

Pauline Sararols, Isabelle Stévant, Yasmine Neirijnck, Diane Rebourcet, Annalucia Darbey, Michael K. Curley, Françoise Kühne, Emmanouil Dermitzakis, Lee B. Smith, Serge Nef

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Leydig cells (LC) are the main testicular androgen-producing cells. In eutherian mammals, two types of LCs emerge successively during testicular development, fetal Leydig cells (FLCs) and adult Leydig cells (ALCs). Both display significant differences in androgen production and regulation. Using bulk RNA sequencing, we compared the transcriptomes of both LC populations to characterize their specific transcriptional and functional features. Despite similar transcriptomic profiles, a quarter of the genes show significant variations in expression between FLCs and ALCs. Non-transcriptional events, such as alternative splicing was also observed, including a high rate of intron retention in FLCs compared to ALCs. The use of single-cell RNA sequencing data also allowed the identification of nine FLC-specific genes and 50 ALC-specific genes. Expression of the corticotropin-releasing hormone 1 (Crhr1) receptor and the ACTH receptor melanocortin type 2 receptor (Mc2r) specifically in FLCs suggests a dual regulation of steroidogenesis. The androstenedione synthesis by FLCs is stimulated by luteinizing hormone (LH), corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) whereas the testosterone synthesis by ALCs is dependent exclusively on LH. Overall, our study provides a useful database to explore LC development and functions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number695546
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - 28 Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Sararols, Stévant, Neirijnck, Rebourcet, Darbey, Curley, Kühne, Dermitzakis, Smith and Nef.


  • RNA sequencing
  • adult Leydig cell
  • androgen
  • fetal Leydig cell
  • single cell RNA sequencing
  • testis


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