Mice deficient in γ-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) are growth retarded as a result of cysteine deficiency secondary to excessive glutathione excretion in urine and display coat color defects and cataracts. Although GGT is widely expressed throughout the mouse reproductive axis, little is known about its role in reproduction. Here, we present an analysis of the reproductive phenotypes of GGT-deficient mice. Mutant male mice have reduced testis and seminal vesicle size and suppressed serum insulin-like growth factor I and FSH levels and are infertile. Although these mice are severely oligospermic, histological analysis of testes reveals grossly normal stages of spermatogenesis, including late stage spermatids, but the tubule diameter is reduced. GGT-deficient female mice are also hypogonadal and infertile. At 6 weeks of age, the ovaries of mutant mice are histologically indistinguishable from those of its wild-type counterpart. However, the absence of antral follicles and corpora lutea and follicular degeneration are apparent by 11-13 weeks. In addition, immature female mutant mice (at 21-23 days) are insensitive to exogenous gonadotropin administration and fail to superovulate, suggesting an intraovarian defect. Consistent with these mutant phenotypes, HPLC analysis of adult mutant testes and ovaries showed a reduction in intracellular cysteine levels. Administration of N-acetylcysteine in the drinking water beginning on day 21 to mutant mice for 2 weeks restored testis, seminal vesicle, and ovary sizes to values comparable to those in wild-type mice. Furthermore, N-acetylcysteine-fed (continuously) mutant male and female mice were fertile and produced normal numbers of offspring when mated to wild-type control mice. These results demonstrate that GGT itself is not necessary for reproductive function. However, GGT plays an important role in cysteine homeostasis within the mouse reproductive axis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas