Single-Cell RNA Sequencing Defines the Regulation of Spermatogenesis by Sertoli-Cell Androgen Signaling

Front Cell Dev Biol. 2021 Nov 15;9:763267. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2021.763267. eCollection 2021.


Androgen receptor (AR) signaling is essential for maintaining spermatogenesis and male fertility. However, the molecular mechanisms by which AR acts between male germ cells and somatic cells during spermatogenesis have not begun to be revealed until recently. With the advances obtained from the use of transgenic mice lacking AR in Sertoli cells (SCARKO) and single-cell transcriptomic sequencing (scRNA-seq), the cell specific targets of AR action as well as the genes and signaling pathways that are regulated by AR are being identified. In this study, we collected scRNA-seq data from wild-type (WT) and SCARKO mice testes at p20 and identified four somatic cell populations and two male germ cell populations. Further analysis identified that the distribution of Sertoli cells was completely different and uncovered the cellular heterogeneity and transcriptional changes between WT and SCARKO Sertoli cells. In addition, several differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in SCARKO Sertoli cells, many of which have been previously implicated in cell cycle, apoptosis and male infertility, have also been identified. Together, our research explores a novel perspective on the changes in the transcription level of various cell types between WT and SCARKO mice testes, providing new insights for the investigations of the molecular and cellular processes regulated by AR signaling in Sertoli cells.

Keywords: AR; knockout; male infertility; scRNA-seq; spermatogenesis.