18 December 1998
The weaver (wv) mutant mouse manifests severe locomotor defects, a deficiency in granule cells of the cerebellum, and cellular deficits in the midbrain dopaminergic system. The wv phenotype is associated with a missense mutation in the pore region of the G-protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium channel, GIRK2. The homozygous male wv mouse is essentially infertile due to an inadequate level of sperm production. Females are fertile although they also manifest the neurological phenotype. Homozygotes of both sexes have reduced body weight. We have evaluated the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis in heterozygote and homozygote male and female wv mutants in comparison with wild-type controls. Testicular weight was significantly reduced in the homozygous males, due to degenerative changes of seminiferous epithelium. Serum and pituitary content of luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and prolactin were normal in all groups, and the normal sex differences were noted (FSH and LH higher in males, prolactin higher in females). Pituitary growth hormone (GH) concentration was normal, with control and mutant males showing higher GH than females. Serum testosterone levels were normal in the mutants, as was testicular testosterone. Testicular α-inhibin content was mildly reduced, but high in proportion to testicular weight. The defect in spermatogenesis appeared predominantly in the postmeiotic stages. In situ hybridization was consistent with expression of some GIRK2 mRNA isoforms in seminiferous epithelium. There were no significant differences between genotypes in the levels of dopamine, dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, serotonin and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid in the mediobasal and preoptic hypothalamic regions. Homovanillic acid levels in these two areas were, however, reduced in wv homozygotes compared to wild-type animals. In the light of normal pituitary hormone levels, normal hypothalamic monoamine concentrations and normal sex differences in gonadotropins, we conclude that the infertility in the male homozygote wv mouse lies within the tubule and is probably a primary defect in the germ cells. The hormonal data suggest that Leydig cell function, and at least some aspects of Sertoli cell function, are normal in the mutant mice.