In adults, stem cells are responsible for the maintenance of many actively renewing tissues, such as haematopoietic, skin, gut and germinal tissues. These stem cells can self-renew or be committed to becoming progenitors. Stem-cell commitment is thought to be irreversible but in male and female Drosophila melanogaster, it was shown recently that differentiating germ cells can revert to functional stem cells that can restore germinal lineage. Whether progenitors are also able to generate stem cells in mammals remains unknown. Here we show that purified mouse spermatogonial progenitors committed to differentiation can generate functional germinal stem cells that can repopulate germ-cell-depleted testes when transplanted into adult mice. We found that GDNF, a key regulator of the stem-cell niche, and FGF2 are able to reprogram in vitro spermatogonial progenitors for reverse differentiation. This study supports the emerging concept that the stem-cell identity is not restricted in adults to a definite pool of cells that self-renew, but that stemness could be acquired by differentiating progenitors after tissue injury and throughout life.
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