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Nature. 2002 Jul 18;418(6895):293-300.

A molecular programme for the specification of germ cell fate in mice.

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Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Institute of Cancer and Developmental Biology, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge, CB2 1QR, UK.


Germ cell fate in mice is induced in proximal epiblast cells by the extra-embryonic ectoderm, and is not acquired through the inheritance of any preformed germ plasm. To determine precisely how germ cells are specified, we performed a genetic screen between single nascent germ cells and their somatic neighbours that share common ancestry. Here we show that fragilis, an interferon-inducible transmembrane protein, marks the onset of germ cell competence, and we propose that through homotypic association, it demarcates germ cells from somatic neighbours. Using single-cell gene expression profiles, we also show that only those cells with the highest expression of fragilis subsequently express stella, a gene that we detected exclusively in lineage-restricted germ cells. The stella positive nascent germ cells exhibit repression of homeobox genes, which may explain their escape from a somatic cell fate and the retention of pluripotency.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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