Morphometric and immunohistochemical analysis as a method to identify undifferentiated spermatogonial cells in adult subjects with Klinefelter syndrome: a cohort study

Most spermatozoa-negative subjects with Klinefelter syndrome are still positive for spermatogonia. This could offer biologic paternity to them in the future through spermatogonia stem cell transplantation or in vitro spermatogenesis.

VOLUME 118, ISSUE 5, P864-873


Nicholas A. Deebel, M.D., Haleh Soltanghoraee, M.D., Aaron William Bradshaw, M.D., Omar Abdelaal, M.D., Karl Reynolds, B.S., Stuart Howards, M.D., Stanley Kogan, M.D., Mohammad Reza Sadeghi, Ph.D., Anthony Atala, M.D., Kimberly Stogner-Underwood, M.D., Hooman Sadri-Ardekani, M.D., Ph.D. 



To study the prevalence of spermatogonia in adult subjects with Klinefelter syndrome (KS) using MAGE-A4 and UCHL1 (PGP9.5) immunohistochemistry as markers for undifferentiated spermatogonial cells. We aimed to compare this method to the gold standard of hematoxylin and eosin (H & E) staining with histologic analysis in the largest reported cohort of adult subjects with KS.


A retrospective cohort study.


Infertility Clinic and Institute for Regenerative Medicine.


This study consisted of 79 adult subjects with KS and 12 adult control subjects.


The subjects with KS (n = 79) underwent bilateral testicular biopsy in an initial effort to recover spermatozoa for in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection. The institutional review board approved the use of a portion of the archived diagnostic pathology paraffin blocks for the study. The samples were superimposed onto microscopic slides and labeled with the PGP9.5 and MAGE-A4 antibodies. Subjects (n = 12) who had previously consented to be organ donors via the National Disease Research Interchange were selected as controls. Dedicated genitourinary pathologists examined the H & E-, PGP9.5-, and MAGE-A4–stained tissue for presence of undifferentiated spermatogonia and spermatozoa with the use of a virtual microscopy software.

Main Outcome Measure(s)

The primary outcome was the presence of MAGE-A4–positive or UCHL1-positive tubules that indicate undifferentiated spermatogonia. Supportive outcomes include assessing the biopsy specimen for the following: total surface area; total seminiferous tubule surface area; total interstitium surface area; the total number of seminiferous tubules; and MAGE-A4– negative or UCHL1-negative tubules. Additionally, clinical information, such as age, karyotype, height, weight, mean testicle size, and hormonal panel (luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and testosterone), was obtained and used in a single and multivariable analysis with linear regression to determine predictive factors for the number of UCHL1-positive tubules.


The mean age of the subjects in the KS group was 32.9 ± 0.7 years (range, 16–48). UCHL1 (PGP9.5) and MAGE-A4 staining showed that 74.7% (n = 59) and 40.5% (n = 32) of the subjects with KS, respectively, were positive for undifferentiated spermatogonia compared with 100% (n = 12) of the control subjects who were positive for both the markers. Hematoxylin and eosin with microscopic analysis showed that only 10.1% (n = 8) of the subjects were positive for spermatogonia. The mean number of positive tubules per subject with KS was 11.8 ± 1.8 for UCHL1 and 3.7 ± 1.0 for MAGE-A4. Secondary analysis showed 7 (8.9%) adult subjects with KS as positive for spermatozoa on biopsy. The population having negative testicular sperm extraction results (n = 72) showed a spermatogonia-positive rate of 1.4%, (n = 1), 72.2% (n = 52), and 34.7% (n = 25) using H & E, UCHL1, and MAGE-A4, respectively. Further analysis showed that 54 (75.0%) subjects were either positive for UCHL1 or MAGE-A4. Twenty (27.8%) subjects were positive for both UCHL1 and MAGE-A4. Multivariate analysis with linear regression showed no significant correlation between clinical variables and the number of UCHL1-positive tubules found on biopsy specimens.


We report a cohort of adult subjects with KS undergoing analysis for the presence of undifferentiated spermatogonia. UCHL1 and MAGE-A4 immunostaining appear to be an effective way of identifying undifferentiated spermatogonia in testicular biopsy specimens of subjects with KS. Despite observing deterioration in the testicular architecture, many patients remain positive for undifferentiated spermatogonia, which could be harvested and potentially used for infertility therapy in a patient with KS who is azoospermic and has negative testicular sperm extraction results.

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