Questions persist regarding male germ stem cells and how they mature during the prespermatogenic period of testicular development. We successfully labeled the prespermatogonia with green fluorescence protein (GFP) by using Oct-4 enhancer/promoter. This study shows that GFP was specifically expressed in prespermatogonia, spermatogonia and spermatids that faithfully reproduce the endogenous expression of Oct-4. Histochemical analysis revealed that most of the TRA98-positive gonocytes are also positive for GFP. However, the frequency of GFP expressing cells out of TRA98 expressing cells decreased together with the maturation of gonocytes in the first week after birth. To compare the stem cell activity between GFP-positive and -negative populations, we performed a transplantation of sorted cells into testes from an individual population. Colonization efficiency of germ cells from a GFP-positive population resulted in a 30-fold increase in colonization compared with a GFP-negative population. Since the expression of Oct-4 in prespermtogonia correlates well with the stem activity, Oct-4 might be a crucial molecule in the stem cell property of spermatogonia but not in cell survival.
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