Dead end is a vertebrate-specific RNA-binding protein implicated in germ cell development. We have previously shown that mouse Dead end1 (DND1) is expressed in male embryonic germ cells and directly interacts with NANOS2 to cooperatively promote sexual differentiation of fetal germ cells. In addition, we have also reported that NANOS2 is expressed in self-renewing spermatogonial stem cells and is required for the maintenance of the stem cell state. However, it remains to be determined whether DND1 works with NANOS2 in the spermatogonia. Here, we show that DND1 is expressed in a subpopulation of differentiating spermatogonia and undifferentiated spermatogonia, including NANOS2-positive spermatogonia. Conditional disruption of DND1 depleted both differentiating and undifferentiated spermatogonia; however, the numbers of Asingle and Apaired spermatogonia were preferentially decreased as compared with those of Aaligned spermatogonia. Finally, we found that postnatal DND1 associates with NANOS2 in vivo, independently of RNA, and interacts with some of NANOS2-target mRNAs. These data not only suggest that DND1 is a partner of NANOS2 in undifferentiated spermatogonia as well as in male embryonic germ cells, but also show that DND1 plays an essential role in the survival of differentiating spermatogonia.
Keywords: Spermatogenesis; Spermatogonia; Stem cell; Testis.
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