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Science. 2010 Dec 17;330(6011):1685-9. doi: 10.1126/science.1193697. Epub 2010 Dec 2.

Cytoplasmic partitioning of P granule components is not required to specify the germline in C. elegans.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Center for Cell Dynamics, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 725 North Wolfe Street, PCTB 706, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Asymmetric segregation of P granules during the first four divisions of the Caenorhabditis elegans embryo is a classic example of cytoplasmic partitioning of germline determinants. It is thought that asymmetric partitioning of P granule components during mitosis is essential to distinguish germline from soma. We have identified a mutant (pptr-1) in which P granules become unstable during mitosis and P granule proteins and RNAs are distributed equally to somatic and germline blastomeres. Despite symmetric partitioning of P granule components, pptr-1 mutants segregate a germline that uniquely expresses P granules during postembryonic development. pptr-1 mutants are fertile, except at high temperatures. Hence, asymmetric partitioning of maternal P granules is not essential to specify germ cell fate. Instead, it may serve to protect the nascent germline from stress.

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