A bioenergetic shift is required for spermatogonial differentiation

Cell Discov. 2020 Aug 18;6:56. doi: 10.1038/s41421-020-0183-x. eCollection 2020.


A bioenergetic balance between glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration is particularly important for stem cell fate specification. It however remains to be determined whether undifferentiated spermatogonia switch their preference for bioenergy production during differentiation. In this study, we found that ATP generation in spermatogonia was gradually increased upon retinoic acid (RA)-induced differentiation. To accommodate this elevated energy demand, RA signaling concomitantly switched ATP production in spermatogonia from glycolysis to mitochondrial respiration, accompanied by increased levels of reactive oxygen species. Disrupting mitochondrial respiration significantly blocked spermatogonial differentiation. Inhibition of glucose conversion to glucose-6-phosphate or pentose phosphate pathway also repressed the formation of c-Kit+ differentiating germ cells, suggesting that metabolites produced from glycolysis are required for spermatogonial differentiation. We further demonstrated that the expression levels of several metabolic regulators and enzymes were significantly altered upon RA-induced differentiation, with both RNA-seq and quantitative proteomic analyses. Taken together, our data unveil a critically regulated bioenergetic balance between glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration that is required for spermatogonial proliferation and differentiation.

Keywords: Cell biology; Stem cells.