Medaka dead end encodes a cytoplasmic protein and identifies embryonic and adult germ cells.
ABSTRACT dead end (dnd) was identified in zebrafish as a gene encoding an RNA-binding protein essential for primordial germ cell (PGC) development and gametogenesis in vertebrates. The adult dnd RNA expression has been restricted to the ovary in Xenopus or to the testis in mouse. Its protein product is nuclear in chicken germ cells but both cytosolic and nuclear in mouse cell cultures. Here we report the cloning and expression pattern of Odnd, the medakafish (Oryzias latipes) dnd gene. Sequence comparison, gene structure, linkage analysis and expression demonstrate that Odnd encodes the medaka Dnd orthologue. A systematic comparison of Dnd proteins from five fishes and tetrapod representatives led to the identification of five previously unidentified conserved regions besides the RNA recognition motif. The Odnd RNA is maternally supplied and preferentially segregated with PGCs. Its adult expression occurs in both sexes and is restricted to germ cells. In the testis, Odnd is abundant in spermatogonia and meiotic cells but absent in sperm. In the ovary, Odnd RNA persists throughout oogenesis. Furthermore, we developed a dual color fluorescent in situ hybridization procedure allowing for precise comparisons of expression and distribution patterns between two genes in medaka embryos and adult tissues. Importantly, this procedure co-localized Odnd and Ovasa in testicular germ cells and PGCs. Surprisingly, by cell transfection and embryo RNA injection we show that ODnd is cytoplasmic in cell cultures, cleavage embryos and PGCs. Therefore, medaka dnd encodes a cytoplasmic protein and identifies embryonic and adult germ cells of both sexes.