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In mammals, male germ cell development starts during fetal life and is carried out in postnatal life with the formation of sperms. Spermatogenesis is the complex and highly orderly process during which a group of germ stem cells is set at birth, starts to differentiate at puberty. It proceeds through several stages: proliferation, differentiation, and morphogenesis and it is strictly regulated by a complex network of hormonal, autocrine and paracrine factors and it is associated with a unique epigenetic program. Altered epigenetic mechanisms or inability to respond to these factors can impair the correct process of germ development leading to reproductive disorders and/or testicular germ cell cancer. Among factors regulating spermatogenesis an emerging role is played by the endocannabinoid system (ECS). ECS is a complex system comprising endogenous cannabinoids (eCBs), their synthetic and degrading enzymes, and cannabinoid receptors. Mammalian male germ cells have a complete and active ECS which is modulated during spermatogenesis and that crucially regulates processes such as germ cell differentiation and sperm functions. Recently, cannabinoid receptor signaling has been reported to induce epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation, histone modifications and miRNA expression. Epigenetic modifications may also affect the expression and function of ECS elements, highlighting the establishment of a complex mutual interaction. Here, we describe the developmental origin and differentiation of male germ cells and testicular germ cell tumors (TGCTs) focusing on the interplay between ECS and epigenetic mechanisms involved in these processes. Copyright © 2023 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Marco Barchi, Eugenia Guida, Susanna Dolci, Pellegrino Rossi, Paola Grimaldi. Endocannabinoid system and epigenetics in spermatogenesis and testicular cancer. Vitamins and hormones. 2023;122:75-106

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PMID: 36863802

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