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Genetics. 2017 May;206(1):163-178. doi: 10.1534/genetics.116.198549. Epub 2017 Mar 3.

Germ Granules Prevent Accumulation of Somatic Transcripts in the Adult Caenorhabditis elegans Germline.

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Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064.
Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064


The germ cells of multicellular organisms protect their developmental potential through specialized mechanisms. A shared feature of germ cells from worms to humans is the presence of nonmembrane-bound, ribonucleoprotein organelles called germ granules. Depletion of germ granules in Caenorhabditis elegans (i.e., P granules) leads to sterility and, in some germlines, expression of the neuronal transgene unc-119::gfp and the muscle myosin MYO-3 Thus, P granules are hypothesized to maintain germ cell totipotency by preventing somatic development, although the mechanism by which P granules carry out this function is unknown. In this study, we performed transcriptome and single molecule RNA-FISH analyses of dissected P granule-depleted gonads at different developmental stages. Our results demonstrate that P granules are necessary for adult germ cells to downregulate spermatogenesis RNAs and to prevent the accumulation of numerous soma-specific RNAs. P granule-depleted gonads that express the unc-119::gfp transgene also express many other genes involved in neuronal development and concomitantly lose expression of germ cell fate markers. Finally, we show that removal of either of two critical P-granule components, PGL-1 or GLH-1, is sufficient to cause germ cells to express UNC-119::GFP and MYO-3 and to display RNA accumulation defects similar to those observed after depletion of P granules. Our data identify P granules as critical modulators of the germline transcriptome and guardians of germ cell fate.


Caenorhabditis elegans; GLH-1; P granules; PGL-1; germ-soma antagonism; germline

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