Transcriptional coactivator with PDZ-binding motif (TAZ) directly interacts with transcription factors and regulates their transcriptional activity. Extensive functional studies have shown that TAZ plays critical regulatory roles in stem cell proliferation, differentiation, and survival and also modulates the development of organs such as the lung, kidney, heart, and bone. Despite the importance of TAZ in stem cell maintenance, TAZ function has not yet been evaluated in spermatogenic stem cells of the male reproductive system. Here, we investigated the expression and functions of TAZ in mouse testis. TAZ was expressed in spermatogenic stem cells; however, its deficiency caused significant structural abnormalities, including atrophied tubules, widened interstitial space, and abnormal Leydig cell expansion, thereby resulting in lowered sperm counts and impaired fertility. Furthermore, TAZ deficiency increased the level of apoptosis and senescence in spermatogenic cells and Leydig cells upon aging. The expression of senescence-associated β-galactosidase (SA-βgal), secretory phenotypes, and cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors (p16, p19, and p21) significantly increased in the absence of TAZ. TAZ downregulation in testicular cells further increased SA-βgal and p21 expression induced by oxidative stress, whereas TAZ overexpression decreased p21 induction and prevented senescence. Mechanistic studies showed that TAZ suppressed DNA-binding activity of p53 through a direct interaction and thus attenuated p53-induced p21 gene transcription. Our results suggested that TAZ may suppress apoptosis and premature senescence in spermatogenic cells by inhibiting the p53-p21 signaling pathway, thus playing important roles in the maintenance and control of reproductive function.
- sperm counts
- TAZ deficiency