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Dev Biol. 2001 Jun 15;234(2):402-15.

Expression of axolotl DAZL RNA, a marker of germ plasm: widespread maternal RNA and onset of expression in germ cells approaching the gonad.

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Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306, USA.


How germ cell specification occurs remains a fundamental question in embryogenesis. The embryos of several model organisms contain germ cell determinants (germ plasm) that segregate to germ cell precursors. In other animals, including mice, germ cells form in response to regulative mechanisms during development. To investigate germ cell determination in urodeles, where germ plasm has never been conclusively identified, we cloned a DAZ-like sequence from axolotls, Axdazl. Axdazl is homologous to Xdazl, a component of Xenopus germ plasm found in the vegetal pole of oocytes and eggs. Axdazl RNA is not localized in axolotl oocytes, and, furthermore, these oocytes do not contain the mitochondrial cloud that localizes Xdazl and other germ plasm components in Xenopus. Maternal Axdazl RNA is inherited in the animal cap and equatorial region of early embryos. At gastrula, neurula, and tailbud stages, Axdazl RNA is widely distributed. Axdazl first shows cell-specific expression in primordial germ cells (PGCs) approaching the gonad at stage 40, when nuage (germ plasm) appears in PGCs. These results suggest that, in axolotls, germ plasm components are insufficient to specify germ cells.

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