Functional robustness of adult spermatogonial stem cells after induction of hyperactive Hras

PLoS Genet. 2019 May 3;15(5):e1008139. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008139. eCollection 2019 May.


Accumulating evidence indicates that paternal age correlates with disease risk in children. De novo gain-of-function mutations in the FGF-RAS-MAPK signaling pathway are known to cause a subset of genetic diseases associated with advanced paternal age, such as Apert syndrome, achondroplasia, Noonan syndrome, and Costello syndrome. It has been hypothesized that adult spermatogonial stem cells with pathogenic mutations are clonally expanded over time and propagate the mutations to offspring. However, no model system exists to interrogate mammalian germline stem cell competition in vivo. In this study, we created a lineage tracing system, which enabled undifferentiated spermatogonia with endogenous expression of HrasG12V, a known pathogenic gain-of-function mutation in RAS-MAPK signaling, to compete with their wild-type counterparts in the mouse testis. Over a year of fate analysis, neither HrasG12V-positive germ cells nor sperm exhibited a significant expansion compared to wild-type neighbors. Short-term stem cell capacity as measured by transplantation analysis was also comparable between wild-type and mutant groups. Furthermore, although constitutively active HRAS was detectable in the mutant cell lines, they did not exhibit a proliferative advantage or an enhanced response to agonist-evoked pERK signaling. These in vivo and in vitro results suggest that mouse spermatogonial stem cells are functionally resistant to a heterozygous HrasG12V mutation in the endogenous locus and that mechanisms could exist to prevent such harmful mutations from being expanded and transmitted to the next generation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult Germline Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Adult Germline Stem Cells / physiology
  • Animals
  • Gain of Function Mutation / genetics
  • Germ-Line Mutation / genetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, 129 Strain
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Paternal Age
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / physiology
  • Selection, Genetic / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Spermatogonia / metabolism*
  • Spermatogonia / physiology
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism
  • Testis / metabolism


  • Hras protein, mouse
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)