Mutations of the W (c-kit) gene, which encodes a transmembrane tyrosine kinase receptor, affect the development and differentiation of many types of stem cell. Most homozygous W mutant mice are sterile, due to a lack of germ cells arising during embryonic development, but one of the notable exceptions is Wf/Wf mice, which are fully fertile in both sexes. In order to elucidate the effects of the Wf mutation on spermatogenesis, postnatal spermatogenesis in Wf/Wf mice was histologically examined. The number of gonocytes at birth was significantly reduced and small portions of agametic seminiferous tubule segments were observed in mutant mice. It is suggested that this is due to a deficiency of primordial germ cells (PGC). Other than the agametic tubules, there was no evidence of reduced spermatogenesis after birth. These results indicate that the function of the W (c-kit) gene is more necessary for the development of PGC than for postnatal germ cells.

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