Characterization of rodent Sertoli cell primary cultures

Helena D. Zomer, Prabhakara P. Reddi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Sertoli cells play a vital role in spermatogenesis by offering physical and nutritional support to the differentiating male germ cells. They form the blood–testis barrier and secrete growth factors essential for germ cell differentiation. Sertoli cell primary cultures are critical for understanding the regulation of spermatogenesis; however, obtaining pure cultures has been a challenge. Rodent Sertoli cell isolation protocols do not rule out contamination by the interstitial or connective tissue cells. Sertoli cell-specific markers could be helpful, but there is no consensus. Vimentin, the most commonly used marker, is not specific for Sertoli cells since its expression has been reported in peritubular myoid cells, mesenchymal stem cells, fibroblasts, macrophages, and endothelial cells, which contaminate Sertoli cell preparations. Markers based on transcription and growth factors also have limitations. Thus, the impediment to obtaining pure Sertoli cell cultures pertains to both the method of isolation and marker usage. The aim of this review is to discuss improvements to current methods of rodent Sertoli cell primary cultures, assess the properties of prepubertal versus mature Sertoli cell cultures, and propose steps to improve cellular characterization. Potential benefits of using contemporary approaches, including lineage tracing, specific cell ablation, and RNA-seq for obtaining Sertoli-specific transcript markers are discussed. Evaluating the specificity and applicability of these markers at the protein level to characterize Sertoli cells in culture would be critical. This review is expected to positively impact future work using primary cultures of rodent Sertoli cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)857-870
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular reproduction and development
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Sertoli cell purity
  • Sertoli-specific markers
  • mouse
  • rat
  • vimentin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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