DNMT3L promotes quiescence in postnatal spermatogonial progenitor cells

Development. 2014 Jun;141(12):2402-13. doi: 10.1242/dev.105130. Epub 2014 May 21.


The ability of adult stem cells to reside in a quiescent state is crucial for preventing premature exhaustion of the stem cell pool. However, the intrinsic epigenetic factors that regulate spermatogonial stem cell quiescence are largely unknown. Here, we investigate in mice how DNA methyltransferase 3-like (DNMT3L), an epigenetic regulator important for interpreting chromatin context and facilitating de novo DNA methylation, sustains the long-term male germ cell pool. We demonstrated that stem cell-enriched THY1(+) spermatogonial stem/progenitor cells (SPCs) constituted a DNMT3L-expressing population in postnatal testes. DNMT3L influenced the stability of promyelocytic leukemia zinc finger (PLZF), potentially by downregulating Cdk2/CDK2 expression, which sequestered CDK2-mediated PLZF degradation. Reduced PLZF in Dnmt3l KO THY1(+) cells released its antagonist, Sal-like protein 4A (SALL4A), which is associated with overactivated ERK and AKT signaling cascades. Furthermore, DNMT3L was required to suppress the cell proliferation-promoting factor SALL4B in THY1(+) SPCs and to prevent premature stem cell exhaustion. Our results indicate that DNMT3L is required to delicately balance the cycling and quiescence of SPCs. These findings reveal a novel role for DNMT3L in modulating postnatal SPC cell fate decisions.

Keywords: DNMT3L; Mouse; Proliferation; Quiescence; Spermatogonial progenitor cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / genetics
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / physiology*
  • DNA Methylation
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Heterozygote
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Spermatogonia / metabolism*
  • Testis / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Zinc Fingers


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Sall4 protein, mouse
  • Transcription Factors
  • Dnmt3l protein, mouse
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases