Membrane-Bound Steel Factor Maintains a High Local Concentration for Mouse Primordial Germ Cell Motility, and Defines the Region of Their Migration

Division of Developmental Biology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, United States of America.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 10/2011; 6(10):e25984. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025984
Source: PubMed


Steel factor, the protein product of the Steel locus in the mouse, is a multifunctional signal for the primordial germ cell population. We have shown previously that its expression accompanies the germ cells during migration to the gonads, forming a "travelling niche" that controls their survival, motility, and proliferation. Here we show that these functions are distributed between the alternatively spliced membrane-bound and soluble forms of Steel factor. The germ cells normally migrate as individuals from E7.5 to E11.5, when they aggregate together in the embryonic gonads. Movie analysis of Steel-dickie mutant embryos, which make only the soluble form, at E7.5, showed that the germ cells fail to migrate normally, and undergo "premature aggregation" in the base of the allantois. Survival and directionality of movement is not affected. Addition of excess soluble Steel factor to Steel-dickie embryos rescued germ cell motility, and addition of Steel factor to germ cells in vitro showed that a fourfold higher dose was required to increase motility, compared to survival. These data show that soluble Steel factor is sufficient for germ cell survival, and suggest that the membrane-bound form provides a higher local concentration of Steel factor that controls the balance between germ cell motility and aggregation. This hypothesis was tested by addition of excess soluble Steel factor to slice cultures of E11.5 embryos, when migration usually ceases, and the germ cells aggregate. This reversed the aggregation process, and caused increased motility of the germ cells. We conclude that the two forms of Steel factor control different aspects of germ cell behavior, and that membrane-bound Steel factor controls germ cell motility within a "motility niche" that moves through the embryo with the germ cells. Escape from this niche causes cessation of motility and death by apoptosis of the ectopic germ cells.

14 Reads
  • Source
    • "SCF binds to the c-kit receptor and signals through PI3Kinase to phosphorylate many downstream effectors, key amongst these being serine/threonine kinase AKT. In mouse, SCF has been shown to be important for the continued motility of PGCs during migration but not their direction of migration [51]. In mice mutant for PTEN, an inhibitor of PI3Kinase and AKT signalling, migratory germ cells showed an increase in AKT phosphorylation and many germ cells were delayed along their normal pathway of migration [52]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In this work, we describe a single piggyBac transposon system containing both a tet-activator and a doxycycline-inducible expression cassette. We demonstrate that a gene product can be conditionally expressed from the integrated transposon and a second gene can be simultaneously targeted by a short hairpin RNA contained within the transposon, both in vivo and in mammalian and avian cell lines. We applied this system to stably modify chicken primordial germ cell (PGC) lines in vitro and induce a reporter gene at specific developmental stages after injection of the transposon-modified germ cells into chicken embryos. We used this vector to express a constitutively-active AKT molecule during PGC migration to the forming gonad. We found that PGC migration was retarded and cells could not colonise the forming gonad. Correct levels of AKT activation are thus essential for germ cell migration during early embryonic development.
    PLoS ONE 11/2013; 8(11):e77222. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0077222 · 3.23 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The trafficking of primordial germ cells (PGCs) across multiple embryonic structures to the nascent gonads ensures the transmission of genetic information to the next generation through the gametes, yet our understanding of the mechanisms underlying PGC migration remains incomplete. Here we identify a role for the receptor tyrosine kinase-like protein Ror2 in PGC development. In a Ror2 mouse mutant we isolated in a genetic screen, PGC migration and survival are dysregulated, resulting in a diminished number of PGCs in the embryonic gonad. A similar phenotype in Wnt5a mutants suggests that Wnt5a acts as a ligand to Ror2 in PGCs, although we do not find evidence that WNT5A functions as a PGC chemoattractant. We show that cultured PGCs undergo polarization, elongation, and reorientation in response to the chemotactic factor SCF (secreted KitL), whereas Ror2 PGCs are deficient in these SCF-induced responses. In the embryo, migratory PGCs exhibit a similar elongated geometry, whereas their counterparts in Ror2 mutants are round. The protein distribution of ROR2 within PGCs is asymmetric, both in vitro and in vivo; however, this asymmetry is lost in Ror2 mutants. Together these results indicate that Ror2 acts autonomously to permit the polarized response of PGCs to KitL. We propose a model by which Wnt5a potentiates PGC chemotaxis toward secreted KitL by redistribution of Ror2 within the cell.
    PLoS Genetics 12/2011; 7(12):e1002428. DOI:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002428 · 7.53 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In multicellular organisms, germ cells are an extremely specialized cell type with the vital function of transmitting genetic information across generations. In this respect, they are responsible for the perpetuity of species, and are separated from somatic lineages at each generation. Interestingly, in the past two decades research has shown that germ cells have the potential to proceed along two distinct pathways: gametogenesis or pluripotency. Unequivocally, the primary role of germ cells is to produce gametes, the sperm or oocyte, to produce offspring. However, under specific conditions germ cells can become pluripotent, as shown by teratoma formation in vivo or cell culture-induced reprogramming in vitro. This phenomenon seems to be a general propensity of germ cells, irrespective of developmental phase. Recent attempts at cellular reprogramming have resulted in the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). In iPSCs, the intracellular molecular networks instructing pluripotency have been activated and override the exclusively somatic cell programs that existed. Because the generation of iPSCs is highly artificial and depends on gene transduction, whether the resulting machinery reflects any physiological cell-intrinsic programs is open to question. In contrast, germ cells can spontaneously shift their fate to pluripotency during in-vitro culture. Here, we review the two fates of germ cells, i.e., differentiation and reprogramming. Understanding the molecular mechanisms regulating differentiation versus reprogramming would provide invaluable insight into understanding the mechanisms of cellular reprogramming that generate iPSCs.
    Reproductive Medicine and Biology 01/2012; 12(1). DOI:10.1007/s12522-012-0131-z
Show more