The United Graduate School of Veterinary Sciences, Gifu University, Japan; Department of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Applied Biological Sciences, Gifu University, Japan; Education and Research Center for Food Animal Health (GeFAH), Gifu University, 1-1 Yanagido, Gifu, 501-1193, Japan. Electronic address: [Email]
Microminipigs are one of the smallest miniature pigs characterized as sexually precocious; the males achieve sexual maturity at around 3-4.5 months of age. However, the physiology of this sexual precocity is still unclear. To understand sexual precocity in male microminipigs, we analyzed their testes at five developmental stages: neonatal (<7 days), 30-day-old, 45-day-old, 80-day-old, and adult (>24 months) stages. We used 4 pigs in each of the stages. To analyze testicular development histologically, the seminiferous tubule diameter (SD) was measured, and the presence or absence of the seminiferous lumen was confirmed. Changes in the expression of pluripotency markers, DBA, UCHL1, ZBTB16, and vimentin, were evaluated immunohistologically. For the analyses, cells positive for DBA, UCHL1, and ZBTB16 per 150 round seminiferous tubules in cross sections from each testis were counted to evaluate the total number of positive cells. The number of positive cells per 100 Sertoli cells (DBA+/Sertoli, UCHL1+/Sertoli, and ZBTB16+/Sertoli) was calculated to compare the five developmental stages. Histologically, SDs became larger with piglet growth, and precocity was confirmed; seminiferous lumens were observed from the 30-day-old stage. Immunohistologically, the number of DBA+/Sertoli, which indicates the number of gonocytes, decreased rapidly to an undetectable level by the 45-day-old stage. In the same period, the number of UCHL1+/Sertoli, which indicates total SSCs, increased significantly, suggesting that the proliferation of SSCs was accelerated before 30 days of age. Consequently, our study clarified that differentiation of SSCs in microminipigs started during the fetal period, the differentiation of gonocytes and proliferation of SSCs was then accelerated before 30 days of age, and the early phase of spermatogenesis was finally completed at around 45 days after birth. Consequently, sexual precocity in male microminipigs was characterized by a shorter duration of the early phase of spermatogenesis.