BackgroundDuring normal development primordial germ cells (PGCs) derived from the epiblast are the precursors of spermatogonia and oogonia. In culture, PGCs can be induced to dedifferentiate to pluripotent embryonic germ (EG) cells in the presence of various growth factors. Several recent studies have now demonstrated that spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) can also revert back to pluripotency as embryonic stem (ES)-like cells under certain culture conditions. However, the potential dedifferentiation of SSCs into PGCs or the potential generation of oocytes from SSCs has not been demonstrated before.

We report that mouse male SSCs can be converted into oocyte-like cells in culture. These SSCs-derived oocytes (SSC-Oocs) were similar in size to normal mouse mature oocytes. They expressed oocyte-specific markers and give rise to embryos through parthenogenesis. Interestingly, the Y- and X-linked testis-specific genes in these SSC-Oocs were significantly down-regulated or turned off, while oocyte-specific X-linked genes were activated. The gene expression profile appeared to switch to that of the oocyte across the X chromosome. Furthermore, these oocyte-like cells lost paternal imprinting but acquired maternal imprinting.

Our data demonstrate that SSCs might maintain the potential to be reprogrammed into oocytes with corresponding epigenetic reversals. This study provides not only further evidence for the remarkable plasticity of SSCs but also a potential system for dissecting molecular and epigenetic regulations in germ cell fate determination and imprinting establishment during gametogenesis.


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