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Development. 2005 Sep;132(18):4029-39. Epub 2005 Aug 10.

RNF17, a component of the mammalian germ cell nuage, is essential for spermiogenesis.

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Department of Animal Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Nuages are found in the germ cells of diverse organisms. However, nuages in postnatal male germ cells of mice are poorly studied. Previously, we cloned a germ cell-specific gene named Rnf17, which encodes a protein containing both a RING finger and tudor domains. Here, we report that RNF17 is a component of a novel nuage in male germ cells--the RNF17 granule, which is an electron-dense non-membrane bound spherical organelle with a diameter of 0.5 mum. RNF17 granules are prominent in late pachytene and diplotene spermatocytes, and in elongating spermatids. RNF17 granules are distinguishable from other known nuages, such as chromatoid bodies. RNF17 is able to form dimers or polymers both in vitro and in vivo, indicating that it may play a role in the assembly of RNF17 granules. Rnf17-deficient male mice were sterile and exhibited a complete arrest in round spermatids, demonstrating that Rnf17 encodes a novel key regulator of spermiogenesis. Rnf17-null round spermatids advanced to step 4 but failed to produce sperm. These results have shown that RNF17 is a component of a novel germ cell nuage and is required for differentiation of male germ cells.

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