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WormBook. 2005 Jul 28:1-10.

Specification of the germ line.

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Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-3700, USA.


In C. elegans, the germ line is set apart from the soma early in embryogenesis. Several important themes have emerged in specifying and guiding the development of the nascent germ line. At early stages, the germline blastomeres are maintained in a transcriptionally silent state by the transcriptional repressor PIE-1. When this silencing is lifted, it is postulated that correct patterns of germline gene expression are controlled, at least in part, by MES-mediated regulation of chromatin state. Accompanying transcriptional regulation by PIE-1 and the MES proteins, RNA metabolism in germ cells is likely to be regulated by perinuclear RNA-rich cytoplasmic granules, termed P granules. This chapter discusses the molecular nature and possible roles of these various germline regulators, and describes a recently discovered mechanism to protect somatic cells from following a germline fate.

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