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Evodevo. 2010 Aug 2;1(1):5. doi: 10.1186/2041-9139-1-5.

Germ cell specification and ovary structure in the rotifer Brachionus plicatilis.

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  • 1Laboratory for Evolution and Development, Genetics Otago and the National Research Centre for Growth and Development, Biochemistry Department, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, Aotearoa-New Zealand.



The segregation of the germline from somatic tissues is an essential process in the development of all animals. Specification of the primordial germ cells (PGCs) takes place via different strategies across animal phyla; either specified early in embryogenesis by the inheritance of maternal determinants in the cytoplasm of the oocyte ('preformation') or selected later in embryonic development from undifferentiated precursors by a localized inductive signal ('epigenesis'). Here we investigate the specification and development of the germ cells in the rotifer Brachionus plicatilis, a member of the poorly-characterized superphyla Lophotrochozoa, by isolating the Brachionus homologues of the conserved germ cell markers vasa and nanos, and examining their expression using in situ hybridization.


Bpvasa and Bpnos RNA expression have very similar distributions in the Brachionus ovary, showing ubiquitous expression in the vitellarium, with higher levels in the putative germ cell cluster. Bpvas RNA expression is present in freshly laid eggs, remaining ubiquitous in embryos until at least the 96 cell stage after which expression narrows to a small cluster of cells at the putative posterior of the embryo, consistent with the developing ovary. Bpnos RNA expression is also present in just-laid eggs but expression is much reduced by the four-cell stage and absent by the 16-cell stage. Shortly before hatching of the juvenile rotifer from the egg, Bpnos RNA expression is re-activated, located in a subset of posterior cells similar to those expressing Bpvas at the same stage.


The observed expression of vasa and nanos in the developing B. plicatilis embryo implies an epigenetic origin of primordial germ cells in Rotifer.

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