Ultrastructural characterization of spermatogenesis and its evolutionary conservation in the germline: germinal granules in mammals

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2009 Jul 10;306(1-2):17-23. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2008.11.009. Epub 2008 Nov 21.


Germline cells of many animals possess characteristic cytoplasmic structures termed germinal granules or nuage. Germinal granules are ribonucleoprotein (RNP) amorphous aggregates lacking limiting membranes, and their molecular composition is evolutionarily conserved in divergent species. Studies on germinal granules in several model animals, such as Drosophila, C. elegans and Xenopus, have mainly focused on the asymmetric partitioning of the structures to prospective germ cells during early embryogenesis. In mammals, on the other hand, germinal granules become discernible at later stages of germ cell differentiation, such as in spermatogenesis and oogenesis. Interestingly, recent genetic studies indicate that germinal granule components in mice function primarily in postnatal germ cell differentiation in the male, but not in early embryonic stages. While the function(s) of germinal granules shared by divergent species and at different differentiation stages of the germline remain elusive, evidence is accumulating that the characteristic RNP is associated with RNA metabolism, retrotransposon regulation and interplay with mitochondria. Here, we present a brief overview of the structural and molecular characteristics of mammalian germinal granules.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / ultrastructure*
  • Germ Cells / cytology
  • Germ Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Male
  • Mammals / physiology*
  • RNA / metabolism
  • Spermatogenesis*


  • RNA