Gpr54-/- mice show more pronounced defects in spermatogenesis than Kiss1-/- mice and improved spermatogenesis with age when exposed to dietary phytoestrogens.


Mice with mutations in the kisspeptin signaling pathway (Kiss1(-/-) or Gpr54(-/-)) have low gonadotrophic hormone levels, small testes, and impaired spermatogenesis. Between 2 and 7 months of age, however, the testes of the mutant mice increase in weight and in Gpr54(-/-) mice, the number of seminiferous tubules containing spermatids/spermatozoa increases from 17 to 78%. In contrast, the Kiss1(-/-) mice have a less severe defect in spermatogenesis and larger testes than Gpr54(-/-) mice at both 2 and 7 months of age. The reason for the improved spermatogenesis was investigated. Plasma testosterone and FSH levels did not increase with age in the mutant mice and remained much lower than in wild-type (WT) mice. In contrast, intratesticular testosterone levels were similar between mutant and WT mice. These data indicate that age-related spermatogenesis can be completed under conditions of low plasma testosterone and FSH and that intratesticular testosterone may contribute to this process. In addition, however, when the Gpr54(-/-) mice were fed a phytoestrogen-free diet, they showed no age-related increase in testes weight or improved spermatogenesis. Thus, both genetic and environmental factors are involved in the improved spermatogenesis in the mutant mice as they age although the mice still remain infertile. These data show that the possible impact of dietary phytoestrogens should be taken into account when studying the phenotype of mutant mice with defects in the reproductive axis.