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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Aug 15;97(17):9585-90.

The human VASA gene is specifically expressed in the germ cell lineage.

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Women's and Perinatal Pathology Division, Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


To understand the origins and function of the human germ cell lineage and to identify germ cell-specific markers we have isolated a human ortholog of the Drosophila gene vasa. The gene was mapped to human chromosome 5q (near the centromere) by radiation hybrid mapping. We show by Northern analysis of fetal and adult tissues that expression of the human VASA gene is restricted to the ovary and testis and is undetectable in somatic tissues. We generated polyclonal antibodies that bind to the VASA protein in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue and characterized VASA protein expression in human germ cells at various stages of development. The VASA protein is cytoplasmic and expressed in migratory primordial germ cells in the region of the gonadal ridge. VASA protein is present in fetal and adult gonadal germ cells in both males and females and is most abundant in spermatocytes and mature oocytes. The gene we have isolated is thus a highly specific marker of germ cells and should be useful for studies of human germ cell determination and function.

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