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The study and manipulation of piglet gonocytes



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The studies in this thesis examined piglet gonocyte identification, isolation, purification, preservation and potential for initiation of spermatogenesis after transplantation into irradiated recipient testes. As a first step, we characterized a previously non-described auto-fluorescence in the piglet testis tissue. This auto-fluorescence mainly originated from granules among the testis interstitial cells, and we found that its interference with immuno-fluorescence can be overcome using Sudan black staining. We also showed that porcine gonocytes can be specifically labelled with the lectin Dolichos biflorus agglutinin (DBA). To optimize gonocyte isolation, we found that ~9-fold more live cells could be harvested by enzymatic digestion of testis tissues than with mechanical methods. However, the proportion of gonocytes (~7%) did not differ between the mechanical and enzymatic methods of testis cell isolation. We then developed a novel three-step strategy for isolation of gonocytes by combining enzymatic digestion and vortexing, resulting in a gonocyte proportion of ~40% (~5-fold more than that from conventional methods). For short-term preservation of testis cells, we found that the survival of testis cells under hypothermic conditions was dependent on the cell type, and affected by storage duration, temperature and medium used. More than 80% of live testis cells survived the 6-day hypothermic preservation period in 20% FBS-L15, without visible changes to the cell culture potential or gonocyte proportion. In another experiment where testis tissues were maintained under hypothermic conditions, we found that ~25% of testis cells could survive for 6 days if preserved in HypoThermosol-FRS solution (HTS-FRS), without morphological changes. To purify gonocytes, we showed that centrifugation of testis cells using 17% Nycodenz can lead to precipitation of gonocytes in pellets (with a purity of > 80%). We also found that pre-coating tissue culture plates with both fibronectin and poly-D-lysine can result in the negative selection of gonocytes (with a purity of up to 85%). We subsequently showed that further purification of gonocytes (to > 90%) could be achieved by combining the two latter approaches. To prepare recipients for germ cell transplantation, we used local irradiation of piglet testes which reduced testis growth, decreased seminiferous tubule diameters and completely eliminated spermatogenesis at 4 months post-irradiation. Compared with the absence of endogenous spermatogenesis in the control testes, spermatogenesis up to elongating spermatids was observed in the irradiated testes after gonocyte transplantation. In summary, we investigated several critical elements in the study and manipulation of gonocytes in a large animal model.



germ cell transplantation, primordial germ cell, male reproduction, germline stem cell, spermatogonial stem cell



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Veterinary Biomedical Sciences


Veterinary Biomedical Sciences


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