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Dev Biol. 1996 Dec 15;180(2):499-510.

A receptor tyrosine kinase, Sky, and its ligand Gas 6 are expressed in gonads and support primordial germ cell growth or survival in culture.

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Department of Cell Biology, Institute of Development, Aging, and Cancer, Tohoku University, 4-1 Seiryo-machi, Sendai, 980, Japan.


Although a number of growth factors and their receptors are involved in the proliferation and differentiation of primordial germ cells (PGCs), the only factor that has been shown to be active in vivo is Steel factor, a ligand for c-Kit. To identify new growth factor receptors that may be required for PGCs function in vivo, we used an reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction-based strategy to screen for protein kinase genes expressed in PGC-derived embryonic germ cells. We report here that one such gene encoding the receptor tyrosine kinase, Sky, is expressed in both PGCs and their supporting cells in male genital ridges after 11.5 dpc. Interestingly, Sky expression was not detected in female genital ridges, although transcripts were detected in supporting cells in the developing ovary at later stages. Gas 6, a ligand for Sky, was also expressed in interstitial cells which surround Sky positive cells in genital ridges, and, in addition, it supported PGC growth or survival in culture. After birth, Sky expression in testis was restricted to Sertoli cells, and Gas 6 was detected around peritubular cells and Leydig cells. These results suggest that Gas 6-Sky signaling plays a role in PGC growth, sexual differentiation, and Sertoli cell functions in vivo. Sky expression in Sertoli cells diminished by 3 weeks of age, when haploid germ cells first appear. On the other hand, the expression in Sertoli cells was markedly upregulated in the testis of germ cell-deficient W/Wv and jsd/jsd mice. The results suggest that signals from differentiated germ cells suppress Sky gene expression in Sertoli cells. High-resolution chromosomal mapping of Sky is also reported.

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