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Nature. 2008 Feb 7;451(7179):730-3. doi: 10.1038/nature06498. Epub 2008 Jan 16.

Drosophila Pgc protein inhibits P-TEFb recruitment to chromatin in primordial germ cells.

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Laboratory for Germline Development, RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0047, Japan.


Germ cells are the only cells that transmit genetic information to the next generation, and they therefore must be prevented from differentiating inappropriately into somatic cells. A common mechanism by which germline progenitors are protected from differentiation-inducing signals is a transient and global repression of RNA polymerase II (RNAPII)-dependent transcription. In both Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans embryos, the repression of messenger RNA transcription during germ cell specification correlates with an absence of phosphorylation of Ser 2 residues in the carboxy-terminal domain of RNAPII (hereafter called CTD), a critical modification for transcriptional elongation. Here we show that, in Drosophila embryos, a small protein encoded by polar granule component (pgc) is essential for repressing CTD Ser 2 phosphorylation in newly formed pole cells, the germline progenitors. Ectopic Pgc expression in somatic cells is sufficient to repress CTD Ser 2 phosphorylation. Furthermore, Pgc interacts, physically and genetically, with positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb), the CTD Ser 2 kinase complex, and prevents its recruitment to transcription sites. These results indicate that Pgc is a cell-type-specific P-TEFb inhibitor that has a fundamental role in Drosophila germ cell specification. In C. elegans embryos, PIE-1 protein segregates to germline blastomeres, and is thought to repress mRNA transcription through interaction with P-TEFb. Thus, inhibition of P-TEFb is probably a common mechanism during germ cell specification in the disparate organisms C. elegans and Drosophila.

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