Coculture of spermatogonia with somatic cells in a novel three-dimensional Soft-Agar-Culture-System

Jan Bernd Stukenborg, Joachim Wistuba, C. Marc Luetjens, Mahmoud Abu Elhija, Mahmoud Huleihel, Eitan Lunenfeld, Jörg Gromoll, Eberhard Nieschlag, Stefan Schlatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Isolation and culture of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) has become an approach to study the milieu and the factors controlling their expansion and differentiation. Traditional conventional cell culture does not mimic the complex situation in the seminiferous epithelium providing a basal, intraepithelial, and adluminal compartment to the developing male germ cells. SSCs are located in specific stem cell niches whose features and functional parameters are thus far poorly understood. It was the aim of this study to isolate SSCs and to explore their expansion and differentiation potential in a novel three-dimensional Soft-Agar-Culture-System (SACS). This system provides three-dimensional structural support and multiple options for manipulations through the addition of factors, cells, or other changes. The system has revolutionized research on blood stem cells by providing a tool for clonal analysis of expanding and differentiating blood cell lineages. In our studies, SSCs are enriched using Gfrα-1 as a specific surface marker and magnetic-activated cell sorting as a separation approach. At termination of the culture, we determined the type and number of germ cells obtained after the first 24 hours of culture. We also determined cell types and numbers in expanding cell clones of differentiating germ cells during the subsequent 15 days of culture. We analyzed a supportive effect of somatic cell lineages added to the solid part of the culture system. We conclude that our enrichment and culture approach is highly useful for exploration of SSC expansion and have found indications that the system supports differentiation up to the level of postmeiotic germ cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-329
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Andrology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Early culture effects
  • Spermatogenesis
  • Spermatogonial stem cells
  • in vitro meiosis


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