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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1998 Jul 9;248(1):204-9.

Identification of a receptor tyrosine kinase involved in germ cell differentiation in planarians.

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Department of Life Science, Faculty of Science, Himeji Institute of Technology, Hyogo, Japan.


To investigate external signals involved in germ cell differentiation from somatic stem cells, we have tried to identify protein kinases whose expression is regulated during the process of sexualization of asexual-state planarians. It is known that in planarians germ cells differentiate from totipotent somatic stem cells called "neoblasts" during sexualization. As a first step, we have isolated twelve protein kinase genes from cDNAs of sexual-state planarians, including three non-receptor tyrosine kinases, three receptor-tyrosine kinases and three non-receptor serine/threonine kinases, and then analyzed their expression patterns during sexualization. One of them, the DjPTK1 gene, is specifically expressed in germ cells of sexual-state planarians. DjPTK1-positive cells were also detected in the mesenchymal space during the process of sexualization, and it appears that these cells migrate to the dorsal side and then differentiate into spermatogonia/spermatocytes in testis. Sequence analysis indicated that the DjPTK1 gene encodes a receptor protein tyrosine kinase belonging to the FGFR/PDGF family. These results suggest that a receptor tyrosine kinase system may be involved both at an early stage of germ cell differentiation and in a step of germ cell maturation in planarians.

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