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Evol Dev. 2009 Sep-Oct;11(5):603-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-142X.2009.00366.x.

Evolution of germ cell development in tetrapods: comparison of urodeles and amniotes.

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Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY 10065, USA.


The embryonic development of germ cells in tetrapods is described, focusing on groups with the inductive mode of germ cell specification. In mammals PGCs are induced early in the gastrulation process, they are internalized with future extraembryonic mesoderm in the early posterior primitive streak, and specified soon thereafter. Strong evidence indicates that a similar process occurs in turtles and some other reptiles. In amniotes, the PGCs appear well before formation of the gonad in the posterior trunk, resulting in a period in which they are located outside the embryo before their migration to the gonad. In contrast, in urodeles the PGCs appear relatively late, and throughout development maintain a position close to precursors of the somatic cells of the gonad so that migration is not required. In lampreys early development of germ cells is strikingly similar to that in urodeles, suggesting this is the primitive process. As amniotes evolved large yolky eggs and better access to nutrition, development of the posterior half of the trunk became more dependent on cell proliferation; this was followed or accompanied by a shift of early germ cell development to the equivalent of the early primitive streak. A similar process may have occurred as some basal vertebrates developed large yolky eggs.

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