Establishment of an organ culture system to induce Sertoli cell differentiation from undifferentiated mouse gonads

J Vet Med Sci. 2020 Apr 9;82(4):414-421. doi: 10.1292/jvms.20-0036. Epub 2020 Feb 21.


Organ culture systems are useful for elucidating the process of testicular differentiation from mammalian undifferentiated genetically male gonads, as they permit various experiments, including experiments involving the control of gene expression. However, without addition of testicular differentiation-related factors, it is difficult to induce the formation of testis cord from immature gonads by a time point earlier 12 tail somites (ts) that corresponding to 11.0 days post coitum (dpc). In this study, we attempted to establish an organ culture system that induces testis formation from immature gonads (around 8 ts: 10.5 dpc) just before Sry (sex-determining region of the Y chromosome) expression. A paired gonad-mesonephros complex of around 8 ts was placed in the groove of an agarose gel block and put the semi-cylindrical piece of agarose gel to maintain the gonad morphology. The gonads were cultured in the gas phase for 96 hr. As a result, testis cord-like structures appeared in many genetically male gonads. Cells expressing the Sertoli cell markers Sox9 (SRY-box 9) and Amh (anti-Müllerian hormone) were observed, while granulosa cell marker Foxl2 (forkhead box L2) was not detected. In addition, Sox9- and Amh-expressing cells were observed throughout the entire gonad in many individuals. Amh mRNA expression was also upregulated. Surprisingly, formation of a partial testicular structure was observed from more immature gonads (6 ts). These results show that our gonadal organ culture system is useful for elucidating the regulation mechanism of Sry expression in undifferentiated bipotential gonads.

Keywords: Amh (anti-Müllerian hormone); Sertoli cell; organ culture; testis differentiation; undifferentiated gonad.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Organ Culture Techniques / veterinary*
  • RNA, Messenger
  • SOX9 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Sertoli Cells*
  • Sex Differentiation
  • Sex-Determining Region Y Protein / genetics
  • Sex-Determining Region Y Protein / metabolism
  • Testis / cytology
  • Testis / embryology*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • SOX9 Transcription Factor
  • Sex-Determining Region Y Protein
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone