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Development. 2003 Dec;130(24):5895-902. Epub 2003 Oct 15.

Meiotic germ cells antagonize mesonephric cell migration and testis cord formation in mouse gonads.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Duke University, Durham NC 27710, USA.


The developmental fate of primordial germ cells in the mammalian gonad depends on their environment. In the XY gonad, Sry induces a cascade of molecular and cellular events leading to the organization of testis cords. Germ cells are sequestered inside testis cords by 12.5 dpc where they arrest in mitosis. If the testis pathway is not initiated, germ cells spontaneously enter meiosis by 13.5 dpc, and the gonad follows the ovarian fate. We have previously shown that some testis-specific events, such as mesonephric cell migration, can be experimentally induced into XX gonads prior to 12.5 dpc. However, after that time, XX gonads are resistant to the induction of cell migration. In current experiments, we provide evidence that this effect is dependent on XX germ cells rather than on XX somatic cells. We show that, although mesonephric cell migration cannot be induced into normal XX gonads at 14.5 dpc, it can be induced into XX gonads depleted of germ cells. We also show that when 14.5 dpc XX somatic cells are recombined with XY somatic cells, testis cord structures form normally; however, when XX germ cells are recombined with XY somatic cells, cord structures are disrupted. Sandwich culture experiments suggest that the inhibitory effect of XX germ cells is mediated through short-range interactions rather than through a long-range diffusible factor. The developmental stage at which XX germ cells show a disruptive effect on the male pathway is the stage at which meiosis is normally initiated, based on the immunodetection of meiotic markers. We suggest that at the stage when germ cells commit to meiosis, they reinforce ovarian fate by antagonizing the testis pathway.

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