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Nat Genet. 2001 Apr;27(4):422-6.

An abundance of X-linked genes expressed in spermatogonia.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Whitehead Institute, and Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.


Spermatogonia are the self-renewing, mitotic germ cells of the testis from which sperm arise by means of the differentiation pathway known as spermatogenesis. By contrast with hematopoietic and other mammalian stem-cell populations, which have been subjects of intense molecular genetic investigation, spermatogonia have remained largely unexplored at the molecular level. Here we describe a systematic search for genes expressed in mouse spermatogonia, but not in somatic tissues. We identified 25 genes (19 of which are novel) that are expressed in only male germ cells. Of the 25 genes, 3 are Y-linked and 10 are X-linked. If these genes had been distributed randomly in the genome, one would have expected zero to two of the genes to be X-linked. Our findings indicate that the X chromosome has a predominant role in pre-meiotic stages of mammalian spermatogenesis. We hypothesize that the X chromosome acquired this prominent role in male germ-cell development as it evolved from an ordinary, unspecialized autosome.

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