IntroductionInsulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2) mRNA has been found in human and mouse spermatozoa. It is currently unknown whether the IGF2 protein is expressed in human spermatozoa and, if so, its possible role in the cross-talk between germ and Sertoli cells (SCs) during spermatogenesis. MethodsTo accomplish this, we analyzed sperm samples from four consecutive Caucasian men. Furthermore, to understand its role during the spermatogenetic process, porcine SCs were incubated with increasing concentrations (0.33, 3.33, and 10 ng/mL) of recombinant human IGF2 (rhIGF2) for 48 hours. Subsequently, the experiments were repeated by pre-incubating SCs with the non-competitive insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R) inhibitor NVP-AEW541. The following outcomes were evaluated: 1) Gene expression of the glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2), and stem cell factor (SCF) mitogens; 2) gene and protein expression of follicle-stimulating hormone receptor (FSHR), anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH), and inhibin B; 3) SC proliferation. ResultsWe found that the IGF2 protein was present in each of the sperm samples. IGF2 appeared as a cytoplasmic protein localized in the equatorial and post-acrosomal segment and with a varying degree of expression in each cell. In SCs, IGF2 significantly downregulated GDNF gene expression in a concentration-dependent manner. FGF2 and SCF were downregulated only by the highest concentration of IGF2. Similarly, IGF2 downregulated the FSHR gene and FSHR, AMH, and inhibin B protein expression. Finally, IGF2 significantly suppressed the SC proliferation rate. All these findings were reversed by pre-incubation with NVP-AEW541, suggesting an effect mediated by the interaction of IGF2 with the IGFR. ConclusionIn conclusion, sperm IGF2 seems to downregulate the expression of mitogens, which are known to be physiologically released by the SCs to promote gonocyte proliferation and spermatogonial fate adoption. These findings suggest the presence of paracrine regulatory mechanisms acting on the seminiferous epithelium during spermatogenesis, by which germ cells can influence the amount of mitogens released by the SCs, their sensitivity to FSH, and their rate of proliferation.
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