Int. J. Dev. Biol. 45: 549 - 555 (2001)
© UPV/EHU Press

The allocation and differentiation of mouse primordial germ cells.

T E Tsang, P L Khoo, R V Jamieson, S X Zhou, S L Ang, R Behringer and P P Tam

Embryology Unit, Children's Medical Research Institute, University of Sydney, Westmead, Australia.

ABSTRACT Analysis of the lineage potency of epiblast cells of the early-streak stage mouse embryo reveals that the developmental fate of the cells is determined by their position in the germ layer. Epiblast cells that are fated to become neuroectoderm can give rise to primordial germ cells (PGCs) and other types of somatic cells when they were transplanted to the proximal region of the epiblast. On the contrary, proximal epiblast cells transplanted to the distal region of the embryo do not form PGCs. Therefore, the germ line in the mouse is unlikely to be derived from a predetermined progenitor population, but may be specified as a result of tissue interactions that take place in the proximal epiblast of the mouse gastrula. The initial phase of the establishment of the PGC population requires, in addition to BMP activity emanating from the extraembryonic ectoderm, normal Lim1 and Hnf3beta activity in the germ layers. The entire PGC population is derived from a finite number of progenitor cells and there is no further cellular recruitment to the germ line after gastrulation. The XX PGCs undergo X-inactivation at the onset of migration from the gut endoderm and re-activate the silenced X-chromosome when they enter the urogenital ridge. Germ cells that are localised ectopically in extragonadal sites do not re-activate the X-chromosome, even when nearly all germ cells in the fetal ovary have restored full activity of both X-chromosomes. XXSxr germ cells can re-activate the X-chromosome in the sex-reversed testis, suggesting that the regulation of X-chromosome activity is independent of ovarian morphogenesis.