Int. J. Dev. Biol. 44: 599 - 608 (2000)
© UPV/EHU Press

The role of stem cell factor and of alternative c-kit gene products in the establishment, maintenance and function of germ cells.

C Sette, S Dolci, R Geremia and P Rossi

Dipartimento di Sanita' Pubblica e Biologia Cellulare, Sezione di Anatomia, Universita' di Roma Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

ABSTRACT The c-kit gene plays a fundamental role during the establishment, the maintenance and the function of germ cells. In the embryonal gonad the c-kit tyrosine kinase receptor and its ligand Stem Cell Factor (SCF) are required for the survival and proliferation of primordial germ cells. In the postnatal animal, c-kit/SCF are required for the production of the mature gametes in response to gonadotropic hormones, i.e. for the survival and/or proliferation of the only proliferating germ cells of the testis, the spermatogonia, and for the growth and maturation of the oocytes. Finally, a truncated c-kit product, tr-kit, specifically expressed in post-meiotic stages of spermatogenesis and present in mature spermatozoa, causes parthenogenetic activation when microinjected into mouse eggs, suggesting that it might play a role in the final function of the gametes, fertilization.