ERM is required for transcriptional control of the spermatogonial stem cell niche
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Division of spermatogonial stem cells produces daughter cells that either maintain their stem cell identity or undergo differentiation to form mature sperm. The Sertoli cell, the only somatic cell within seminiferous tubules, provides the stem cell niche through physical support and expression of surface proteins and soluble factors. Here we show that the Ets related molecule (ERM) is expressed exclusively within Sertoli cells in the testis and is required for spermatogonial stem cell self-renewal. Mice with targeted disruption of ERM have a loss of maintenance of spermatogonial stem cell self-renewal without a block in normal spermatogenic differentiation and thus have progressive germ-cell depletion and a Sertoli-cell-only syndrome. Microarray analysis of primary Sertoli cells from ERM-deficient mice showed alterations in secreted factors known to regulate the haematopoietic stem cell niche. These results identify a new function for the Ets family transcription factors in spermatogenesis and provide an example of transcriptional control of a vertebrate stem cell niche.
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