Background: Animal germ cells differentiate as sperm or as oocytes. These sexual fates are controlled by complex regulatory pathways to ensure that the proper gametes are made at the appropriate times. Summary: Nematodes like Caenorhabditis elegans and its close relatives are ideal models for studying how this regulation works, because the XX animals are self-fertile hermaphrodites that produce both sperm and oocytes. In these worms, germ cells use the same signal transduction pathway that functions in somatic cells. This pathway determines the activity of the transcription factor TRA-1, a Gli protein that can repress male genes. However, the pathway is extensively modified in germ cells, largely by the action of translational regulators like the PUF proteins. Many of these modifications play critical roles in allowing the XX hermaphrodites to make sperm in an otherwise female body. Finally, TRA-1 cooperates with chromatin regulators in the germ line to control the activity of fog-1 and fog-3, which are essential for spermatogenesis. FOG-1 and FOG-3 work together to determine germ cell fates by blocking the translation of oogenic transcripts. Key Messages: Although there is great diversity in how germ cell fates are controlled in other animals, many of the key nematode genes are conserved, and the critical role of translational regulators may be universal.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Developmental Biology