TGF-beta superfamily signaling in testis formation and early male germline development

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The TGF-beta ligand superfamily contains at least 40 members, many of which are produced and act within the mammalian testis to facilitate formation of sperm. Their progressive expression at key stages and in specific cell types determines the fertility of adult males, influencing testis development and controlling germline differentiation. BMPs are essential for the interactive instructions between multiple cell types in the early embryo that drive initial specification of gamete precursors. In the nascent foetal testis, several ligands including Nodal, TGF-betas, Activins and BMPs, serve as key masculinizing switches by regulating male germline pluripotency, somatic and germline proliferation, and testicular vascularization and architecture. In postnatal life, local production of these factors determine adult testis size by regulating Sertoli cell multiplication and differentiation, in addition to specifying germline differentiation and multiplication. Because TGF-beta superfamily signalling is integral to testis formation, it affects processes that underlie testicular pathologies, including testicular cancer, and its potential to contribute to subfertility is beginning to be understood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94 - 103
Number of pages10
JournalSeminars in Cell and Developmental Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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