Background and Aims: In mammalian spermatogenesis, glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) is one of the major Sertoli cell-derived factors which regulates the maintenance of undifferentiated spermatogonia including spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) through GDNF family receptor α1 (GFRα1). It remains unclear as to when, where and how GDNF molecules are produced and exposed to the GFRα1-positive spermatogonia in vivo. Methodology and Principal Findings: Here we show the cyclical and patch-like distribution of immunoreactive GDNF-positive signals and their close co-localization with a subpopulation of GFRα1-positive spermatogonia along the basal surface of Sertoli cells in mice and hamsters. Anti-GDNF section immunostaining revealed that GDNF-positive signals are mainly cytoplasmic and observed specifically in the Sertoli cells in a species-specific as well as a seminiferous cycle- and spermatogenic activity-dependent manner. In contrast to the ubiquitous GDNF signals in mouse testes, high levels of its signals were cyclically observed in hamster testes prior to spermiation. Whole-mount anti-GDNF staining of the seminiferous tubules successfully visualized the cyclical and patch-like extracellular distribution of GDNF-positive granular deposits along the basal surface of Sertoli cells in both species. Double-staining of GDNF and GFRα1 demonstrated the close co-localization of GDNF deposits and a subpopulation of GFRα1-positive spermatogonia. In both species, GFRα1-positive cells showed a slender bipolar shape as well as a tendency for increased cell numbers in the GDNF-enriched area, as compared with those in the GDNF-low/negative area of the seminiferous tubules. Conclusion/Significance: Our data provide direct evidence of regionally defined patch-like GDNF-positive signal site in which GFRα1-positive spermatogonia possibly interact with GDNF in the basal compartment of the seminiferous tubules.
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