Identification and characterization of repopulating spermatogonial stem cells from the adult human testis

Fariborz Izadyar, Jadelind Wong, Chad Maki, Jason Pacchiarotti, Thomas Ramos, Kyle Howerton, Constance Yuen, Scott Greilach, Hongyu H. Zhao, Michelle Chow, Yung Chiong Chow, Jianyu Rao, Jason Barritt, Natan Bar-Chama, Alan Copperman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: This study was conducted to identify and characterize repopulating spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) in the adult human testes. Methods Testes biopsies from obstructive azoospermic patients and normal segments of human testicular tissue were used. Flow cytometry, real-time PCR and immunohistochemical analysis were performed. Purified human spermatogonia were transplanted into busulfan-treated recipient mouse testes and integrated cells were detected by human nuclear protein antibody co-localized with stem cell and germ cell markers. Results Testicular biopsies collected from obstructive azoospermic men showed similar morphology and distribution of markers to the normal human testes. Flow cytometry showed distinct populations of stage-specific embryonic antigen-4 (SSEA-4), CD49f and CD90 positive cells in the adult human testes. SSEA-4 (+) cells showed high expression levels of SSC-specific genes and high levels of telomerase activity. Extensive colonization of human cells in the mouse testes indicates the presence of highly enriched populations of SSCs in the SSEA-4 (+) sorted cells. All the HNP (+) cells in the mouse testes were positive for germ cell marker dead box mRNA helicase and only half of them were dimly positive for c-kit. In addition, subpopulations of human spermatogonia that colonized mouse testes were positively stained for CD49f, GPR-125, Nanog and Oct-4 indicating the existence of population of cells among human spermatogonia with SSC and pluripotent characteristics. CONCLUSIONS This study clearly demonstrates that repopulating human SSCs have phenotypic characteristics of SSEA-4+, CD49f +, GPR-125+and c-Kit neg/low. The results have direct implications for enrichment of human spermatogonia for further culture and germ cell differentiation studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1296-1306
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • human
  • repopulating
  • spermatogonial stem cells
  • surface markers
  • testes


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