Single-Cell RNA Sequencing of Human, Macaque, and Mouse Testes Uncovers Conserved and Divergent Features of Mammalian Spermatogenesis

Dev Cell. 2020 Aug 24;54(4):529-547.e12. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2020.05.010. Epub 2020 Jun 5.


Spermatogenesis is a highly regulated process that produces sperm to transmit genetic information to the next generation. Although extensively studied in mice, our current understanding of primate spermatogenesis is limited to populations defined by state-specific markers from rodent data. As between-species differences have been reported in the duration and differentiation hierarchy of this process, it remains unclear how molecular markers and cell states are conserved or have diverged from mice to man. To address this challenge, we employ single-cell RNA sequencing to identify transcriptional signatures of major germ and somatic cell types of the testes in human, macaque, and mice. This approach reveals similarities and differences in expression throughout spermatogenesis, including the stem/progenitor pool of spermatogonia, markers of differentiation, potential regulators of meiosis, RNA turnover during spermatid differentiation, and germ cell-soma communication. These datasets provide a rich foundation for future targeted mechanistic studies of primate germ cell development and in vitro gametogenesis.

Keywords: evolution; meiosis; signaling; single-cell RNA-seq; soma; spermatogenesis; spermatogonial stem cell.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics
  • Humans
  • Macaca / genetics
  • Macaca / growth & development
  • Male
  • Meiosis / genetics
  • Mice
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Single-Cell Analysis*
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics*
  • Spermatogonia / cytology
  • Testis / growth & development*
  • Testis / metabolism