Human primordial germ cells (PGCs) have been described in the yolk sac wall around the beginning of the third week. From week 4 to 5, they migrate under control of SCF/c-KIT signaling pathway to the genital ridge, where they become gonocytes. PGCs and gonocytes express classic pluripotency markers, such as KIT, NANOG, and OCT3/4 that, during spermatogonia differentiation, are gradually suppressed, and substituted by the expression of some germ cell specific genes, such as VASA, SOX17, and TSPY. These genes, during normal development of germ cells, are tightly regulated by epigenetic modification, in terms of microRNA expression and DNA methylation. In adolescents and young adults, testicular germ cell tumors (TGCT) have a common precursor, the germ cell neoplasia in situ (GCNIS); the hypothesis of their origin from PGCs or gonocytes, whose maturation is altered, is widely accepted. The origin of TGCT, probably starting at early stages of embryogenesis, seems to be a part of the Testicular Dysgenesis Syndrome (TDS) where some early PGC/gonocytes, for still unclear reasons, are blocked in their differentiation, retaining their early marker profile. In this paper, current knowledge on the combination of epidemiological and genomic factors, involved in the development of testicular germ cell tumors, is reviewed.

Frontiers in endocrinology. 2019 Jun 06*** epublish ***

Tiziano Baroni, Iva Arato, Francesca Mancuso, Riccardo Calafiore, Giovanni Luca

Department of Experimental Medicine, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy., Department of Medicine, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy.