In order to define the role of Kit ligand (KL) growth factor encoded at the mouse steel (SI) locus in spermatogenesis, we have examined its production in Sertoli cells. As a measure KL growth factor bioactivity, the ability to support proliferation and maintenance of mast cells was used in co-culture with primary mouse Sertoli cells. On the sertoli cells derived from +/+ and Wv/Wv mice, +/+ mast cells proliferated and were supported for more than 2 weeks, but not W/Wv mast cells. In contrast, Sertoli cells from SId/SId mice could not support +/+ mast cell proliferation under similar conditions. The supportive effect required close-range interaction of Sertoli cells with cultured mast cells. These results indicate that Sertoli cells derived from +/+ and Wv/Wv but not SId/SId mutant mice produce biologically active KL growth factor as a membrane-bound form. The biologically active KL of Sertoli cells may also play an important role in germ cell growth and differentiation.

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