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Mol Hum Reprod. 1999 Sep;5(9):851-60.

Identification of genes expressed in human primordial germ cells at the time of entry of the female germ line into meiosis.

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Molecular Embryology Unit, Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK.


In mammals, primordial germ cells (PGCs) are first observed in the extraembryonic mesoderm from where they migrate through the hindgut and its mesentery to the genital ridge to colonize the developing gonads. Soon after reaching the gonads, the female PGCs enter meiosis, while the male PGCs are arrested in mitosis and enter meiosis postnatally. To gain an insight into the molecular events controlling human germ cell development, we determined specific profiles of gene expression using cDNA prepared from PGCs isolated from male and female fetal gonads at 10 weeks gestation, when female PGCs start to enter meiosis. The identity of the isolated PGCs, and the cDNA molecules prepared from them, was confirmed respectively, by alkaline phosphatase staining and by the presence of transcripts of OCT4, a marker gene for PGCs and pluripotent stem cells in mice. Using differential display to compare the profiles of gene expression of male and female germ cells with each other and with that of a whole 10 week old fetus, we have identified eight transcripts differentially expressed in male and/or female germ cells. Among these transcripts, we have identified a member of the olfactory receptor gene family, which contains genes known to be germline-specific in the dog and possibly associated with chemotactic function. Another transcript is common to a previously isolated sequence from the human testis and we have extended this sequence towards the 5' end for partial characterization. The germline-specific sequences also include two novel sequences not represented in the databases. These findings are highly encouraging for the elucidation of the genetic programming of male and female germ line development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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