The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 57: 185 - 195 (2013)

Vol 57, Issue 2-3-4

Special Issue: Male Germ Cells in Development & Tumors

The spermatogonial stem cell niche in testicular germ cell tumors

Open Access | Published: 30 May 2013

Unai Silván1,#, Alejandro Díez-Torre2, Pablo Moreno1, Jon Arluzea1,2, Ricardo Andrade2, Margarita Silió1 and Juan Aréchaga*,1,2

1Laboratory of Stem Cells, Development and Cancer, Department of Cell Biology and Histology and 2Analytical and High Resolution Biomedical Microscopy Core Facility, University of the Basque Country, Vizcaya, Spain


Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) are pluripotent elements found in the adult seminiferous epithelium between Sertoli cells and a basal lamina which covers the multilayered external wall of peritubular myoid cells. The microenvironment of this pluripotent stem cell niche creates the complex and dynamic system that is necessary for the initiation of spermatogenesis, but this system also contains factors which can potentially collaborate in the progression of testicular germ cell tumors (TGCTs). In this review, we summarize our current knowledge about some important structural and molecular features related to the SSC niche, including growth factors, adhesion molecules, extracellular matrix, mechanical stress and vascularization. We discuss their possible collaborative effects on the generation and progression of TGCTs, which are a type of cancer representing the most frequent neoplasia among young men and whose incidence has grown very quickly during the past decades in North America and Europe. In this regard, a better understanding of the pluripotent stem cell niche where these malignancies arise will provide further insights into the origin of TGCTs and the mechanisms underlying their growth and invasion of adjacent and distant tissues.


testis, spermatogonia, germ cell tumor, embryonal carcinoma, teratocarcinoma, cancer stem cell

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