Testis morphogenesis is a highly orchestrated process involving lineage determination of male germ cells and somatic cell types. Although the origin and differentiation of germ cells are known, the developmental course specific for each somatic cell lineage has not been clearly defined. Here, we construct a comprehensive map of somatic cell lineage progression in the mouse testis. Both supporting and interstitial cell lineages arise from WT1+ somatic progenitor pools in the gonadal primordium. A subpopulation of WT1+ progenitor cells acquire SOX9 expression and become Sertoli cells that form testis cords, whereas the remaining WT1+ cells contribute to progenitor cells in the testis interstitium. Interstitial progenitor cells diversify through the acquisition of HES1, an indication of Notch activation, at the onset of sex determination. HES1+ interstitial progenitors, through the action of Sertoli cell-derived Hedgehog signals, become positive for GLI1. The GLI1+ interstitial cells eventually develop into two cell lineages: steroid-producing fetal Leydig cells and non-steroidogenic cells. The fetal Leydig cell population is restricted by Notch2 signaling from the neighboring somatic cells. The non-steroidogenic progenitor cells retain their undifferentiated state during fetal stage and become adult Leydig cells in post-pubertal testis. These results provide the first lineage progression map that illustrates the sequential establishment of somatic cell populations during testis morphogenesis.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
C.L. and K.R. performed the experiments; C.L. and H.H.-C.Y. designed the study, analyzed data and wrote the paper.
This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program (ES102965) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and NIH Graduate Partnerships Program. Deposited in PMC for release after 12 months.
Supplementary information available online at http://dev.biologists.org/lookup/doi/10.1242/dev.135756.supplemental
- Received March 8, 2016.
- Accepted August 17, 2016.