Maintaining Sufficient Nanos Is a Critical Function for Polar Granule Component in the Specification of Primordial Germ Cells

Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544.
G3-Genes Genomes Genetics (Impact Factor: 3.2). 11/2012; 2(11):1397-403. DOI: 10.1534/g3.112.004192
Source: PubMed


Primordial germ cells (PGC) are the precursors of germline stem cells. In Drosophila, PGC specification is thought to require transcriptional quiescence and three genes, polar granule component (pgc), nanos (nos), and germ cell less (gcl) function to downregulate Pol II transcription. While it is not understood how nos or gcl represses transcription, pgc does so by inhibiting the transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb), which is responsible for phosphorylating Ser2 residues in the heptad repeat of the C-terminal domain (CTD) of the largest Pol II subunit. In the studies reported here, we demonstrate that nos are a critical regulatory target of pgc. We show that a substantial fraction of the PGCs in pgc embryos have greatly reduced levels of Nos protein and exhibit phenotypes characteristic of nos PGCs. Lastly, restoring germ cell-specific expression of Nos is sufficient to ameliorate the pgc phenotype.

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    ABSTRACT: nanos (nos) specifies posterior development in the Drosophila embryo by repressing the translation of maternal hb mRNA. In addition to this somatic function, nos is required in the germline progenitors, the pole cells, to establish transcriptional quiescence. We have previously reported that nos is required to keep the Sex-lethal establishment promoter, Sxl-Pe, off in the germline of both sexes. We show here that nos also functions to repress Sxl-Pe activity in the surrounding soma. Sxl-Pe is inappropriately activated in the soma of male embryos from nos mothers, while Sxl-Pe can be repressed in female embryos by ectopic Nos protein. nos appears to play a global role in repressing transcription in the soma as the effects of nos on promoter activity are correlated with changes in the phosphorylation status of the carboxy terminal domain (CTD) repeats of the large RNA polymerase II subunit. Finally, we present evidence indicating that the suppression of transcription in the soma by Nos protein is important for normal embryonic development.
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    ABSTRACT: The mouse Nanos proteins, Nanos2 and Nanos3, are required for germ cell development and share a highly conserved zinc-finger domain. The expression patterns of these factors during development, however, differ from each other. Nanos3 expression in the mouse embryo commences in the primordial germ cells (PGCs) just after their formation, and a loss of this protein results in the germ cell-less phenotype in both sexes. By contrast, Nanos2 expression begins only in male PGCs after their entry into the genital ridge and a loss of this protein results in a male germ cell deficiency, irrespective of the co-expression of Nanos3 in these cells. These results indicate that these two Nanos proteins have distinct functions, which depend on the time and place of their expression. To further elucidate this, we have generated transgenic mouse lines that express Nanos2 under the control of the Oct4DeltaPE promoter and examined Nanos2 function in a Nanos3-null genetic background. We find that ectopically produced Nanos2 protein rescues the Nanos3-null defects, because the germ cells fully develop in both sexes in the transgenic mice. This result indicates that Nanos2 can substitute for Nanos3 during early PGC development. By contrast, our current data show that Nanos3 does not rescue the defects in Nanos2-null mice. Our present findings thus indicate that there are redundant functions of the Nanos proteins in early PGC development, but that Nanos2 has a distinct function during male germ cell development in the mouse.
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    ABSTRACT: Nanos (Nos) is an evolutionarily conserved protein essential for the survival of primordial germ cells. In Drosophila, maternal Nos partitions into pole cells and suppresses apoptosis to permit proper germ-line development. However, how this critical event is regulated by Nos has remained elusive. Here, we report that Nos represses apoptosis of pole cells by suppressing translation of head involution defective (hid), a member of the RHG gene family that is required for Caspase activation. In addition, we demonstrate that hid acts in concert with another RHG gene, sickle (skl), to induce apoptosis. Expression of skl is induced in pole cells by maternal tao-1, a ste20-like serine/threonine kinase. Tao-1-dependent skl expression is required to potentiate hid activity. However, skl expression is largely suppressed in normal pole cells. Once the pole cells lack maternal Nos, Tao-1-dependent skl expression is fully activated, suggesting that skl expression is also restricted by Nos. These findings provide the first evidence that the germ line is maintained through the regulated expression of RHG genes.
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