Jörg Gromoll, Centre of Reproductive Medicine and Andrology (CeRA) (Homepage)
Sertoli cells (SCs) are part of the spermatogonial stem cell niche, making them essential for spermatogenesis. They interact directly with the different germ cell types to provide morphological, nutritional, and paracrine support for spermatogenesis. Given the essential function of SCs for spermatogenesis, it is surprising that SCs and their impact on male infertility remain grossly understudied. Especially in the case of SCO, the severest form of male infertility, it is very likely that the germ cell niche is dysfunctional, giving rise to the possibility that mutations in SC genes or other altered SC properties are involved in this pathology.
Within the CRU we will generate a transcriptomic atlas of SCs from healthy and SCO patients, the competence of SCs for establishing a niche will be studied by detailed analyses of cell number, morphology, protein biosynthesis, and marker expression. Finally, we will get insights into SC function by performing in-vitro studies on human testes.
The project will result in distinct cellular and molecular signatures for healthy SCs and SCs from SCO patients. The obtained data will be compiled in a SC scoring system, which ideally delineates the functional status of SCs and/or the presence of SC subtypes indicative of different physiological conditions. In perspective, the project will delineate to which extent dysfunctional SC function contributes to the conundrum of male infertility.