Sperm DNA methylation is predominantly stable in mice offspring born after transplantation of long-term cultured spermatogonial stem cells.

Serrano Joana B and Tabeling Nils C and de Winter-Korver Cindy M and van Daalen Saskia K M and van Pelt Ans M M and Mulder Callista L

BACKGROUND: Spermatogonial stem cell transplantation (SSCT) is proposed as a fertility therapy for childhood cancer survivors. SSCT starts with cryopreserving a testicular biopsy prior to gonadotoxic treatments such as cancer treatments. When the childhood cancer survivor reaches adulthood and desires biological children, the biopsy is thawed and SSCs are propagated in vitro and subsequently auto-transplanted back into their testis. However, culturing stress during long-term propagation can result in epigenetic changes in the SSCs, such as DNA methylation alterations, and might be inherited by future generations born after SSCT. Therefore, SSCT requires a detailed preclinical epigenetic assessment of the derived offspring before this novel cell therapy is clinically implemented. With this aim, the DNA methylation status of sperm from SSCT-derived offspring, with in vitro propagated SSCs, was investigated in a multi-generational mouse model using reduced-representation bisulfite sequencing. RESULTS: Although there were some methylation differences, they represent less than 0.5\% of the total CpGs and methylated regions, in all generations. Unsupervised clustering of all samples showed no distinct grouping based on their pattern of methylation differences. After selecting the few single genes that are significantly altered in multiple generations of SSCT offspring compared to control, we validated the results with quantitative Bisulfite Sanger sequencing and RT-qPCRin various organs. Differential methylation was confirmed only for Tal2, being hypomethylated in sperm of SSCT offspring and presenting higher gene expression in ovaries of SSCT F1 offspring compared to control F1. CONCLUSIONS: We found no major differences in DNA methylation between SSCT-derived offspring and control, both in F1 and F2 sperm. The reassuring outcomes from our study are a prerequisite for promising translation of SSCT to the human situation.

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April, 2023



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