An in vitro three-dimensional (3D) testicular organoid culture system for efficient gonocyte maintenance and propagation using frozen/thawed neonatal bovine testicular tissues
Tang S., Jones C., Mecca R., Davies J., Lane S., Coward K.
Abstract Fertility preservation in prepubertal boys with cancer requires the cryopreservation of immature testicular tissues (ITTs) prior to gonadotoxic treatment. However, the limited number of germ cells in small human ITT biopsies necessitates the development of an in vitro culture system for germ cell expansion using frozen-thawed ITTs. Here, we generated testicular organoids for the in vitro maintenance and expansion of gonocytes from frozen-thawed two-week-old neonatal bovine ITTs. We investigated the effects of different cell-seeding densities, culture serums, seeding methods, and gonadotropin supplementations, on the maintenance and proliferation of enriched gonocytes. Our results demonstrated that enriched gonocytes and testicular cells from frozen-thawed neonatal ITTs could self-assemble into spheroid organoids in three days in an appropriate Matrigel-based culture environment. For the optimal formation of prepubertal testicular organoids, a seeding density of 1×106 cells/well is recommended over other densities. This strategy results in organoids with a mean diameter of 60.53±12.12 µm; the mean number of organoids was 5.57±1.60/105 µm2 on day 11. The viability of organoids was maintained at 79.75±2.99% after being frozen and thawed. Supplementing the culture medium with glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2), and leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), increased the proportion of KI67-positive proliferating cells in organoids, elevated the expression of C-KIT but reduced the expression of GFRα1 at day 28 when compared to those without hormone supplements (p<0.05). In addition, supplementing the culture medium with follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and testosterone helped to maintain a significantly higher viability (p<0.05) in ITT organoids at day 28. These organoids could be cryopreserved for storage and thawed as needed. The successful generation of ITT organoids provides a valuable tool for establishing in vitro spermatogenesis, propagating human germ cells, investigating testicular physiology and the origin of germ cell tumors, and testing the toxicity of new drugs in future clinical applications.