Abstract

The role of the mesonephros in testicular development was re-evaluated by growing embryonic day 11.5 (E11.5) mouse testes devoid of mesonephros for 8–21 days in vivo under the renal capsule of castrated male athymic nude mice. This method provides improved growth conditions relative to previous studies based upon short-term (4–7 days) organ culture. Meticulous controls involved wholemount examination of dissected E11.5 mouse testes as well as serial sections of dissected E11.5 mouse testes which were indeed shown to be devoid of mesonephros. As expected, grafts of E11.5 mouse testes with mesonephros attached formed seminiferous tubules and also contained mesonephric derivatives. Grafts of E11.5 mouse testes without associated mesonephros also formed seminiferous tubules and never contained mesonephric derivatives. The consistent absence of mesonephric derivatives in grafts of E11.5 mouse testes grafted alone is further proof of the complete removal of the mesonephros from the E11.5 mouse testes. The testicular tissues that developed in grafts of E11.5 mouse testes alone contained canalized seminiferous tubules composed of Sox9-positive Sertoli cells as well as GENA-positive germ cells. The seminiferous tubules were surrounded by α-actin-positive myoid cells, and the interstitial space contained 3βHSD-1-positive Leydig cells. Grafts of E11.5 GFP mouse testes into wild-type hosts developed GFP-positive vasculature indicating that E11.5 mouse testes contain vascular precursors. These results indicate that the E11.5 mouse testis contains precursor cells for Sertoli cells, Leydig cells, myoid cells and vasculature whose development and differentiation are independent of cells migrating from the E11.5 mesonephros.

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