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Jan-Bernd Stukenborg, Kirsi Jahnukainen, Marsida Hutka and Rod T Mitchell

Testicular function and future fertility may be affected by cancer treatment during childhood. Whilst survival of the germ (stem) cells is critical for ensuring the potential for fertility in these patients, the somatic cell populations also play a crucial role in providing a suitable environment to support germ cell maintenance and subsequent development. Regulation of the spermatogonial germ-stem cell niche involves many signalling pathways with hormonal influence from the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal axis. In this review, we describe the somatic cell populations that comprise the testicular germ-stem cell niche in humans and how they may be affected by cancer treatment during childhood. We also discuss the experimental models that may be utilized to manipulate the somatic environment and report the results of studies that investigate the potential role of somatic cells in the protection of the germ cells in the testis from cancer treatment.

Open access

Manon Engels, Paul N Span, Rod T Mitchell, Joop J T M Heuvel, Monica A Marijnissen-van Zanten, Antonius E van Herwaarden, Christina A Hulsbergen-van de Kaa, Egbert Oosterwijk, Nike M Stikkelbroeck, Lee B Smith, Fred C G J Sweep and Hedi L Claahsen-van der Grinten

Testicular adrenal rest tumours (TARTs) are benign adrenal-like testicular tumours that frequently occur in male patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Recently, GATA transcription factors have been linked to the development of TARTs in mice. The aim of our study was to determine GATA expression in human TARTs and other steroidogenic tissues. We determined GATA expression in TARTs (n = 16), Leydig cell tumours (LCTs; n = 7), adrenal (foetal (n = 6) + adult (n = 10)) and testis (foetal (n = 13) + adult (n = 8)). We found testis-like GATA4, and adrenal-like GATA3 and GATA6 gene expressions by qPCR in human TARTs, indicating mixed testicular and adrenal characteristics of TARTs. Currently, no marker is available to discriminate TARTs from LCTs, leading to misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment. GATA3 and GATA6 mRNAs exhibited excellent discriminative power (area under the curve of 0.908 and 0.816, respectively), while immunohistochemistry did not. GATA genes contain several CREB-binding sites and incubation with 0.1 mM dibutyryl cAMP for 4 h stimulated GATA3, GATA4 and GATA6 expressions in a human foetal testis cell line (hs181.tes). Incubation of adrenocortical cells (H295RA) with ACTH, however, did not induce GATA expression in vitro. Although ACTH did not dysregulate GATA expression in the only human ACTH-sensitive in vitro model available, our results do suggest that aberrant expression of GATA transcription factors in human TARTs might be involved in TART formation.