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J Mol Med (Berl). 2012 Jul;90(7):753-61. doi: 10.1007/s00109-012-0912-1. Epub 2012 May 15.

The reciprocal relationship between primordial germ cells and pluripotent stem cells.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry 37077, Goettingen, Germany.


Primordial germ cells (PGCs) are induced in the epiblast early in mammalian development. They develop their specific fate separate from somatic cells by the generation of a unique transcriptional profile and by epigenetic modifications of histones and DNA. PGCs are related to pluripotent cells in many respects, both on a molecular and a cell biological level. Mimicking their in vivo development, PGCs can be derived in culture from pluripotent cells. Vice versa, PGCs can be converted in vitro into pluripotent embryonic germ cells. Recent evidence indicates that the derivation of pluripotent embryonic stem cells from explanted inner cell mass cells may pass through a germ cell-like state, but that this intermediate is not obligatory. In this review, we discuss PGC development and its relevance to pluripotency in mammalian embryos. We outline possibilities and problems connected to the application of in vitro-derived germ cells in reproductive medicine.

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