Basonuclin (BNC1) is a zinc finger protein expressed primarily in gametogenic cells and proliferative keratinocytes. Our previous work suggested that BNC1 is present in spermatogonia, spermatocytes, and spermatids, but absent in the Sertoli cells. BNC1's role in spermatogenesis is unknown. Here, we show that BNC1 is required for the maintenance of spermatogenesis. Bnc1-null male mice were sub-fertile, losing germ cells progressively with age. The Bnc1-null seminiferous epithelia began to degenerate before 8 weeks of age and eventually became Sertoli cell-only. Sperm count and motility also declined with age. Furthermore, Bnc1 heterozygotes, although fertile, showed a significant drop in sperm count and in testis weight by 24 weeks of age, suggesting a dosage effect of Bnc1 on testis development. In conclusion, our data demonstrate for the first time BNC1's essential role in maintaining mouse spermatogenesis.
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