Letter | Published:

Pluripotency of spermatogonial stem cells from adult mouse testis

Nature volume 440, pages 11991203 (27 April 2006) | Download Citation



Embryonic germ cells as well as germline stem cells from neonatal mouse testis are pluripotent and have differentiation potential similar to embryonic stem cells1,2, suggesting that the germline lineage may retain the ability to generate pluripotent cells. However, until now there has been no evidence for the pluripotency and plasticity of adult spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), which are responsible for maintaining spermatogenesis throughout life in the male3. Here we show the isolation of SSCs from adult mouse testis using genetic selection, with a success rate of 27%. These isolated SSCs respond to culture conditions and acquire embryonic stem cell properties. We name these cells multipotent adult germline stem cells (maGSCs). They are able to spontaneously differentiate into derivatives of the three embryonic germ layers in vitro and generate teratomas in immunodeficient mice. When injected into an early blastocyst, SSCs contribute to the development of various organs and show germline transmission. Thus, the capacity to form multipotent cells persists in adult mouse testis. Establishment of human maGSCs from testicular biopsies may allow individual cell-based therapy without the ethical and immunological problems associated with human embryonic stem cells. Furthermore, these cells may provide new opportunities to study genetic diseases in various cell lineages.

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We thank A. Cierpka, D. Meyer, S. Wolf, B. Sadowski, I. Schwandt, C. Müller and S. Burkhardt for technical assistance. We thank M. Schindler, H. Riedesel and S. Wolf for their assistance in the generation of transgenic mice, G. Wulf for help with FACS analysis, and B. Hemmerlein for the analysis of teratomas. This work was supported by grants from the Georg-August-University of Göttingen (Forschungsförderungsprogramm Stammzellen) to K.G. and K.N., and a DFG grant (Emmy-Noether Program) to L.S.M. Author Contributions K.G., G.H., K.N. and W.E. conceived and designed the experiments and performed the data analysis and controls. K.G., K.N., L.S.M., S.W., R.D., J.H.L., J.N., F.W. and M.L. performed the experiments, and K.G., G.H., K.N. and W.E. wrote the paper.

Author information

Author notes

    • Kaomei Guan
    •  & Karim Nayernia

    These authors contributed equally to this work


  1. Department of Cardiology and Pneumology, Heart Center, Georg-August-University of Göttingen, Robert-Koch-Str. 40, 37075 Göttingen, Germany

    • Kaomei Guan
    • , Lars S. Maier
    • , Stefan Wagner
    • , Frieder Wolf
    •  & Gerd Hasenfuss
  2. Institute of Human Genetics and

    • Karim Nayernia
    • , Jae Ho Lee
    • , Jessica Nolte
    • , Manyu Li
    •  & Wolfgang Engel
  3. Department of Cellular and Molecular Immunology, Georg-August-University of Göttingen, Heinrich-Dücker-Weg 12, 37073 Göttingen, Germany

    • Ralf Dressel


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Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Wolfgang Engel or Gerd Hasenfuss.

Supplementary information

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  1. 1.

    Supplementary Methods

    Full description of methods and analysis used in this study.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Tables

    This file contains Supplementary Tables 1-4. Analysis of DNA microsatellite markers in the established cell lines as compared to the other cells cultured in the same facility.

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    Supplementary Video Legends

    This file contains text to accompany the above Supplementary Video.

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    This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-6.


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    Supplementary Video 1

    Spontaneously and rhythmically beating cells in culture.

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