Dedifferentiation of primary spermatocytes into germ cell tumors in C. elegans lacking the pumilio-like protein PUF-8

Curr Biol. 2003 Jan 21;13(2):134-9. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(03)00005-8.


PUF proteins are a conserved family of RNA binding proteins that regulate RNA stability and translation by binding to specific sequences in 3'-untranslated regions. Drosophila PUMILIO and C. elegans FBF are essential for self-renewal of germline stem cells, suggesting that a common function of PUF proteins may be to sustain mitotic proliferation of stem cells. Here, we show that PUF-8, the C. elegans PUF most related to PUMILIO, performs a different function in germ cells that have begun meiosis: in primary spermatocytes, puf-8 is required to maintain meiosis and prevent the return to mitosis. Primary spermatocytes lacking PUF-8 complete meiotic prophase but do not undergo normal meiotic divisions. Instead, they dedifferentiate back into mitotically cycling germ cells and form rapidly growing tumors. These findings reveal an unexpected ability for germ cells that have completed meiotic prophase to return to the mitotic cycle, and they support the view that PUF proteins regulate multiple transitions during germline development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Genes, Helminth
  • Germinoma / genetics
  • Germinoma / pathology
  • Male
  • Meiosis / genetics
  • Mitosis / genetics
  • Spermatocytes / cytology*
  • Spermatocytes / metabolism*
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins