Conservation of avian germplasm by xenogeneic transplantation of spermatogonia from sexually mature donors

Ricardo J.G. Pereira, Angelo Napolitano, Fernando L. Garcia-Pereira, Caroline F. Baldo, Steven T. Suhr, Louis E. King, Jose B. Cibelli, Darrin M. Karcher, Elizabeth A. McNiel, Gloria I. Perez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Approximately 12.5% of all 9,920 extant bird species in the world are threatened with extinction, and yet conservation efforts through natural breeding of captive species continue to encounter difficulties. However, sperm cryopreservation and artificial insemination offer potential benefits over natural breeding, but their applicability is still limited in nondomestic species. In this study, we aimed to exploit the potential of germ cell xenotransplantation as an alternative tool for preserving germplasm of endangered birds. The study was designed to investigate whether transfer of either spermatogonia-enriched cell fraction (SEF) or crude testicular cell fraction (CTF) from adult Japanese quails (as a model for wild species) would result in recolonization of gamma-irradiated gonads of adult recipient chickens. One month after transplantation, 75% of recipients injected with SEF and 25% of recipients injected with CTF resumed spermatogenesis. However, it took more than 3 months for 33% of the negative controls to resume marginal production of sperm. Some SEF recipients produced more spermatozoa bearing head morphology compared with donor controls. DNA analysis using quail-specific primers did not detect donor's DNA in these recipients' semen. However, 6 months after xenotransplantation, presence of quail germ cells was demonstrated by polymerase chain reaction and by immunohistochemistry in 1 rooster injected with SEF. These findings indicate that spermatogonia from adult quails were capable of colonizing immunocompetent testis of adult chickens but failed to produce sufficient sperm. Despite this limitation, the present approach represents a potential conservation tool that may be used to rescue germ cells of endangered adult male birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-749
Number of pages15
JournalStem Cells and Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013


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