Members of the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) superfamily play a variety of important roles in testicular development and function. The tumor suppressor gene, Smad4, is a common mediator of TGF-β, activin, and bone morphogenetic protein-mediated signaling pathways. To investigate the role of the Smad4 gene during testicular development and function, transgenic mice were generated using a Flag-tagged Smad4 gene driven by 180-bp fragment of the Mullerian inhibiting substance upstream promoter sequence. Three Smad4 transgenic founders (A, B, and G) were detected by Southern blot analysis; line B showed the highest expression of the Smad4 transgene and was further studied. The fertility in F1 generation (B) and F2 generation (BB) of the Smad4 transgenic mice was not impaired. However, in the F3 generation (B2x) all animals were impacted by the overexpression of the Smad4 transgene and two kinds of phenotypes were observed. In one group animals were completely infertile, while in the other group animals were fertile and sired the normal number of pups/litter. These groups are designated as infertile and fertile in the text. Histological evaluation of the testes from the infertile group showed variable degrees of Leydig cell hyperplasia, apoptosis of germ cells, spermatogenic arrest, seminiferous tubule degeneration, and infertility. In the fertile group, there was no apparent change in the histology of the testis except for a slight increase in the number of Leydig cells. Serum follicle-stimulating hormone levels in the adult animals of both groups of Smad4 transgenic male mice were not significantly different from normal littermates; however, testosterone levels in both groups were significantly (P < 0.05) increased. These results suggest that overexpression of Smad4 leads to testicular abnormalities and infertility supporting the hypothesis that the TGF-β signaling pathways are carefully orchestrated during testicular development. In the absence of normal levels of Smad4 testicular function is compromised.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine