Single-cell transcriptome analysis and in vitro differentiation of testicular cells reveal novel insights into male sterility of the interspecific hybrid cattle-yak

BMC Genomics. 2023 Mar 27;24(1):149. doi: 10.1186/s12864-023-09251-2.


Background: Interspecific hybridization plays vital roles in enriching animal diversity, while male hybrid sterility (MHS) of the offspring commonly suffered from spermatogenic arrest constitutes the postzygotic reproductive isolation. Cattle-yak, the hybrid offspring of cattle (Bos taurus) and yak (Bos grunniens) can serve as an ideal MHS animal model. Although meiotic arrest was found to contribute to MHS of cattle-yak, yet the cellular characteristics and developmental potentials of male germline cell in pubertal cattle-yak remain to be systematically investigated.

Results: Single-cell RNA-seq analysis of germline and niche cell types in pubertal testis of cattle-yak and yak indicated that dynamic gene expression of developmental germ cells was terminated at late primary spermatocyte (meiotic arrest) and abnormal components of niche cell in pubertal cattle-yak. Further in vitro proliferation and differentially expressed gene (DEG) analysis of specific type of cells revealed that undifferentiated spermatogonia of cattle-yak exhibited defects in viability and proliferation/differentiation potentials.

Conclusion: Comparative scRNA-seq and in vitro proliferation analysis of testicular cells indicated that not only meiotic arrest contributed to MHS of cattle-yak. Spermatogenic arrest of cattle-yak may originate from the differentiation stage of undifferentiated spermatogonia and niche cells of cattle-yak may provide an adverse microenvironment for spermatogenesis.

Keywords: Cattle-yak; Differentiation; Male sterility; Single-cell transcriptome; Testicular cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male* / genetics
  • Infertility, Male* / veterinary
  • Male
  • Single-Cell Gene Expression Analysis
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics
  • Spermatogonia
  • Testis* / metabolism

Supplementary concepts

  • Arrest of spermatogenesis