AsianScientist (Feb. 2, 2017) – Researchers from the University of Tsukuba have shown that a protein that regulates egg and sperm formation in flies also controls the same process in mice. These findings have been published in Scientific Reports.
Primordial germ cells (PGCs) are precursor cells that differentiate into egg or sperm cells after embryonic development. Across different animal groups, a select group of genes are switched on in PGCs, suggesting that germline gene activation is conserved.
Indeed, the conserved transcription factor protein Ovo is required for expression of these genes, but it was previously unclear if Ovo was needed for normal germline development of the fruit fly (Drosophila) or whether the related mouse protein played a similar role in mouse embryos.
The ovo gene of Drosophila encodes three proteins, of which Ovo-B was found to be the most abundant in PGCs. The research team from Tsukuba University used the Ovo-A protein to block the function of Ovo-B, and observed that both male and female Drosophila had underdeveloped reproductive organs.
“We next compared Drosophila PGCs lacking Ovo-B function with normal PGCs, and identified 510 genes that showed increased expression, including several involved in the development of somatic tissues and organs of the body,” corresponding author Professor Satoru Kobayashi said. “This suggested to us that within PGCs, Ovo-B suppresses expression of genes that are active in somatic cells.”
In contrast, using previously published data combined with current findings, the team showed that Ovo-B switches on the expression of key germline genes.
To examine the role of the related mouse protein Ovol2, the researchers studied mice with and without the Ovol2 gene.
“In the absence of Ovol2, no change was seen in the somatic development of the mouse at an early embryonic stage,” Kobayashi said. “However, very few PGCs were observed, suggesting that it is required for germline development.”
The similarity between the defects seen in both mice and Drosophila lacking the Ovo function indicates a conserved role for Ovo protein in controlling germline development in the two species. The team speculates that Ovo is involved in regulating common genes for germline development.
The article can be found at: Hayashi et al. (2017) Conserved Role of Ovo in Germline Development in Mouse and Drosophila.
Source: University of Tsukuba; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.