Vitamin A regulation of BMP4 expression in the male germ line

Rosa M Baleato, R John Aitken, Shaun D Roman
Developmental Biology 2005 October 1, 286 (1): 78-90
The molecular mechanisms leading to male infertility in vitamin A deficient (VAD) rodents have never been fully elucidated. Here, we report an interaction between BMP4 and retinoid signaling pathways in germ cells that may help clarify the biochemical basis of VAD. Adult germ cells, in particular spermatogonia, expressed BMP4 at both the mRNA and protein levels. BMP4 expression was significantly up-regulated in the testes of VAD mice and was down-regulated in freshly isolated germ cells and VAD testes by retinol, but not retinoic acid. The retinoid-responsive gene, RARbeta, was not induced in germ cells following retinoid treatment. Examination of BMP4 promoter usage in spermatogonia and the VAD testis revealed that germ cells utilize the recently characterized BMP4 intron 2 promoter, in addition to the classical 1A and 1B promoters. The observed decrease in BMP4 in response to retinol was mediated by the 1A and intron 2 promoters of the BMP4 gene. Our results reflect a direct requirement for retinoids by germ cells for the resumption of spermatogenesis in VAD animals via mechanisms that involve the suppression of BMP4 expression.

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