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Dev Biol. 2004 Apr 15;268(2):429-40.

Wt1 functions in the development of germ cells in addition to somatic cell lineages of the testis.

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Department of Medicine, The Children's Hospital, and Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The Wilms' tumor suppressor gene, Wt1, encodes a transcription factor critical for development of the urogenital system. To identify lineages within the developing urogenital system that have a cell-autonomous requirement for Wt1, chimeric mice were generated from Wt1-null ES cells. Males with large contributions of Wt1-/- cells showed hypoplastic and dysgenic testes, with seminiferous tubules lacking spermatogonia. Wt1-null cells contributed poorly to both somatic and germ cell lineages within the developing gonad, suggesting an unexpected role for Wt1 in germ cell development in addition to a role in the development of the somatic lineages of the gonad. Wt1 expression was detected in embryonic germ cells beginning at embryonic day 11.5 after migrating primordial germ cells (PGCs) have entered the gonad. Germ cells isolated from Wt1-null embryos showed impaired growth in culture, further demonstrating a role for Wt1 in germ cell proliferation or survival. Therefore, Wt1 plays important, and in some cases previously unrecognized, roles in multiple lineages during urogenital development.

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