A standardized approach for multispecies purification of mammalian male germ cells by mechanical tissue dissociation and flow cytometry

Ana C. Lima, Min Jung, Jannette Rusch, Abul Usmani, Alexandra M. Lopes, Donald F. Conrad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) has been one of the methods of choice to isolate enriched populations of mammalian testicular germ cells. Currently, it allows the discrimination of up to 9 murine germ cell populations with high yield and purity. This high-resolution in discrimination and purification is possible due to unique changes in chromatin structure and quantity throughout spermatogenesis. These patterns can be captured by flow cytometry of male germ cells stained with fluorescent DNA-binding dyes such as Hoechst-33342 (Hoechst). Herein is a detailed description of a recently developed protocol to isolate mammalian testicular germ cells. Briefly, single cell suspensions are generated from testicular tissue by mechanical dissociation, double stained with Hoechst and propidium iodide (PI) and processed by flow cytometry. A serial gating strategy, including the selection of live cells (PI negative) with different DNA content (Hoechst intensity), is used during FACS sorting to discriminate up to 5 germ cell types. These include, with corresponding average purities (determined by microscopy evaluation): spermatogonia (66%), primary (71%) and secondary (85%) spermatocytes, and spermatids (90%), further separated into round (93%) and elongating (87%) subpopulations. Execution of the entire workflow is straightforward, allows the isolation of 4 cell types simultaneously with the appropriate FACS machine, and can be performed in less than 2 h. As reduced processing time is crucial to preserve the physiology of ex vivo cells, this method is ideal for downstream high-throughput studies of male germ cell biology. Moreover, a standardized protocol for multispecies purification of mammalian germ cells eliminates methodological sources of variables and allows a single set of reagents to be used for different animal models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere55913
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number125
StatePublished - Jul 12 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Canis familiaris
  • Cavia porcellus
  • Comparative reproduction
  • Developmental biology
  • Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS)
  • Hoechst-33342
  • Issue 125
  • Male germ cells
  • Mechanical dissociation
  • Rattus norvegicus
  • Spermatogenesis
  • Sus scrofa domesticus
  • Testis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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