An ex vivo Approach to Study Hormonal Control of Spermatogenesis in the Teleost Oreochromis niloticus

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



As the male reproductive organ, the main task of the testis is the production of fertile, haploid spermatozoa. This process, named spermatogenesis, starts with spermatogonial stem cells, which undergo a species-specific number of mitotic divisions until starting meiosis and further morphological maturation. The pituitary gonadotropins, luteinizing hormone, and follicle stimulating hormone, are indispensable for vertebrate spermatogenesis, but we are still far from fully understanding the complex regulatory networks involved in this process. Therefore, we developed an ex vivo testis cultivation system which allows evaluating the occurring changes in histology and gene expression. The experimental circulatory flow-through setup described in this work provides the possibility to study the function of the male tilapia gonads on a cellular and transcriptional level for at least 7 days. After 1 week of culture, tilapia testis slices kept their structure and all stages of spermatogenesis could be detected histologically. Without pituitary extract (tilPE) however, fibrotic structures appeared, whereas addition of tilPE preserved spermatogenic cysts and somatic interstitium completely. We could show that tilPE has a stimulatory effect on spermatogonia proliferation in our culture system. In the presence of tilPE or hCG, the gene expression of steroidogenesis related genes (cyp11b2 and stAR2) were notably increased. Other testicular genes like piwil1, amh, or dmrt1 were not expressed differentially in the presence or absence of gonadotropins or gonadotropin containing tilPE. We established a suitable system for studying tilapia spermatogenesis ex vivo with promise for future applications.


Original languageEnglish
Article number443
JournalFrontiers in Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2020

External IDs

PubMedCentral PMC7366826
Scopus 85088786845
ORCID /0000-0002-2331-2221/work/142242766
ORCID /0000-0001-9326-7967/work/142252303



  • Animals, Cichlids/physiology, Fish Proteins/genetics, Gene Expression Profiling, Gene Expression Regulation/drug effects, Gonadal Steroid Hormones/pharmacology, Male, Spermatogenesis, Spermatogonia/drug effects

Library keywords