Mouse germ cell development: from specification to sex determination

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2010 Jul 8;323(1):76-93. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2009.12.013. Epub 2009 Dec 28.


Primordial germ cells (PGCs) are embryonic progenitors for the gametes. In the gastrulating mouse embryo, a small group of cells begin expressing a unique set of genes and so commit to the germline. Over the next 3-5 days, these PGCs migrate anteriorly and increase rapidly in number via mitotic division before colonizing the newly formed gonads. PGCs then express a different set of unique genes, their inherited epigenetic imprint is erased and an individual methylation imprint is established, and for female PGCs, the silent X chromosome is reactivated. At this point, germ cells (GCs) commit to either a female or male sexual lineage, denoted by meiosis entry and mitotic arrest, respectively. This developmental program is determined by cues emanating from the somatic environment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Genes, Developmental*
  • Germ Cells / growth & development*
  • Gonads / embryology*
  • Gonads / growth & development*
  • Male
  • Meiosis / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mitosis / genetics
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology
  • Sex Chromosomes
  • Sex Determination Processes*