Articles | Volume 4, issue 2
Review article
22 Sep 2017
Review article |  | 22 Sep 2017

Male germline stem cells in non-human primates

Swati Sharma, Joana M. D. Portela, Daniel Langenstroth-Röwer, Joachim Wistuba, Nina Neuhaus, and Stefan Schlatt

Abstract. Over the past few decades, several studies have attempted to decipher the biology of mammalian germline stem cells (GSCs). These studies provide evidence that regulatory mechanisms for germ cell specification and migration are evolutionarily conserved across species. The characteristics and functions of primate GSCs are highly distinct from rodent species; therefore the findings from rodent models cannot be extrapolated to primates. Due to limited availability of human embryonic and testicular samples for research purposes, two non-human primate models (marmoset and macaque monkeys) are extensively employed to understand human germline development and differentiation. This review provides a broader introduction to the in vivo and in vitro germline stem cell terminology from primordial to differentiating germ cells. Primordial germ cells (PGCs) are the most immature germ cells colonizing the gonad prior to sex differentiation into testes or ovaries. PGC specification and migratory patterns among different primate species are compared in the review. It also reports the distinctions and similarities in expression patterns of pluripotency markers (OCT4A, NANOG, SALL4 and LIN28) during embryonic developmental stages, among marmosets, macaques and humans. This review presents a comparative summary with immunohistochemical and molecular evidence of germ cell marker expression patterns during postnatal developmental stages, among humans and non-human primates. Furthermore, it reports findings from the recent literature investigating the plasticity behavior of germ cells and stem cells in other organs of humans and monkeys. The use of non-human primate models would enable bridging the knowledge gap in primate GSC research and understanding the mechanisms involved in germline development. Reported similarities in regulatory mechanisms and germ cell expression profile in primates demonstrate the preclinical significance of monkey models for development of human fertility preservation strategies.

Short summary
This review provides an introduction to the in vivo and in vitro germline stem cell terminology and physiology in non-human male primates. Primordial germ cell specification, migration and expansion are compared among species, and the usefulness of pluripotency markers is discussed taking immunohistochemical and molecular evidence during postnatal developmental stages into consideration. The concept of germline plasticity is critically reviewed and might present a primate-specific feature.