Androgens and spermatogenesis: lessons from transgenic mouse models

Guido Verhoeven, Ariane Willems, Evi Denolet, Johannes V Swinnen, Karel De Gendt

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Transgenic mouse models have contributed considerably to our understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which androgens control spermatogenesis. Cell-selective ablation of the androgen receptor (AR) in Sertoli cells (SC) results in a complete block in meiosis and unambiguously identifies the SC as the main cellular mediator of the effects of androgens on spermatogenesis. This conclusion is corroborated by similar knockouts in other potential testicular target cells. Mutations resulting in diminished expression of the AR or in alleles with increased length of the CAG repeat mimick specific human forms of disturbed fertility that are not accompanied by defects in male sexual development. Transcriptional profiling studies in mice with cell-selective and general knockouts of the AR, searching for androgen-regulated genes relevant to the control of spermatogenesis, have identified many candidate target genes. However, with the exception of Rhox5, the identified subsets of genes show little overlap. Genes related to tubular restructuring, cell junction dynamics, the cytoskeleton, solute transportation and vitamin A metabolism are prominently present. Further research will be needed to decide which of these genes are physiologically relevant and to identify genes that can be used as diagnostic tools or targets to modulate the effects of androgens in spermatogenesis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1537-1556
Number of pages20
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1546
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2010


  • androgens
  • animals
  • male
  • mice
  • mice, transgenic
  • receptors, androgen
  • sertoli cells
  • spermatogenesis
  • testis


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