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SOHLH1 and SOHLH2 control Kit expression during postnatal male germ cell development.

Barrios F., Filipponi D., Campolo F., Gori M., Bramucci F., Pellegrini M., Ottolenghi S., Rossi P., Jannini E.A., Dolci S.

How Kit expression is regulated in the germline remains unknown. SOHLH1 and SOHLH2, two bHLH transcription factors specifically expressed in germ cells, are involved in spermatogonia and oocyte differentiation. In the male, deletion of each factor causes loss of Kit-expressing spermatogonia in the prepuberal testis. In the female, SOHLH1 and SOHLH2 ablations cause oocyte loss in the neonatal ovary. To investigate whether Kit expression is regulated by these two factors in male germ cells, we examined SOHLH1 and SOHLH2 expression during fetal and postnatal mouse development. We found a strong positive correlation between Kit and the two transcription factors only in postnatal spermatogonia. SOHLH2 was enriched in undifferentiated spermatogonia, whereas SOHLH1 expression was maximal at Kit-dependent stages. Expression of SOHLH1, but not SOHLH2, was increased in postnatal mitotic germ cells by treatment with all-trans retinoic acid. We found that E-box sequences within the Kit promoter and its first intron can be transactivated in transfection experiments overexpressing Sohlh1 or Sohlh2. Co-transfection of both factors showed a cooperative effect. EMSA experiments showed that SOHLH1 and SOHLH2 can independently and cooperatively bind an E-box-containing probe. In vivo co-immunoprecipitations indicated that the two proteins interact and overexpression of both factors increases endogenous Kit expression in embryonic stem cells. SOHLH1 was found by ChIP analysis to occupy an E-box-containing region within the Kit promoter in spermatogonia chromatin. Our results suggest that SOHLH1 and SOHLH2 directly stimulate Kit transcription in postnatal spermatogonia, thus activating the signaling involved in spermatogonia differentiation and spermatogenetic progression.

J. Cell. Sci. 125:1455-1464(2012) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]