A comparative analysis of human adult testicular cells expressing stem Leydig cell markers in the interstitium, vasculature, and peritubular layer

Eliveld, Jitske; Daalen, Saskia K.M. van; Winter-Korver, Cindy M. de; Veen, Fulco van der; Repping, Sjoerd; Teerds, Katja; Pelt, Ans M.M. van


Background: Origin of human adult Leydig cells (ALCs) is not well understood. This might be partly due to limited data available on the identification and location of human precursor and stem Leydig cells (SLCs) which hampers the study on the development of ALCs. Objectives: The aim of the present study was to investigate whether described human (PDGFRα, NGFR) and rodent (NES, PDGFRα, THY1, NR2F2) SLC markers are expressed by a common cell population within human adult testicular interstitial cells in vivo and before and after in vitro propagation. Materials and methods: Immunohistochemical analyses were used to identify localization of human adult testicular interstitial cells expressing described SLC markers. Next, interstitial cells were isolated and cultured. The percentage of cells expressing one or more SLC markers was determined before and after culture using flow cytometry. Results: NR2F2 and PDGFRα were present in peritubular, perivascular, and Leydig cells, while THY1 was expressed in peritubular and perivascular cells. Although NES and NGFR were expressed in endothelial cells, co-localization with PDGFRα was found for both in vitro, although for NGFR only after culture. All marker positive cells were able to undergo propagation in vitro. Discussion: The partly overlap in localization and overlap in expression in human testicular cells indicate that PDGFRα, NR2F2, and THY1 are expressed within the same ALC developmental lineage from SLCs. Based on the in vitro results, this is also true for NES and after in vitro propagation for NGFR. Conclusion: Our results that earlier described SLC markers are expressed in overlapping human interstitial cell population opens up further research strategies aiming for a better insight in the Leydig cell lineage and will be helpful for development of strategies to cure ALC dysfunction.