Background: The regulation of gene expression via a 3' untranslated region (UTR) plays essential roles in the discrimination of the germ cell lineage from somatic cells during embryogenesis. This is fundamental to the continuation of a species. Mouse NANOS3 is an essential protein required for the germ cell maintenance and is specifically expressed in these cells. However, the regulatory mechanisms that restrict the expression of this gene in the germ cells is largely unknown at present.
Methodology/principal findings: In our current study, we show that differences in the stability of Nanos3 mRNA between germ cells and somatic cells is brought about in a 3'UTR-dependent manner in mouse embryos. Although Nanos3 is transcribed in both cell lineages, it is efficiently translated only in the germ lineage. We also find that the translational suppression of NANOS3 in somatic cells is caused by a 3'UTR-mediated mRNA destabilizing mechanism. Surprisingly, even when under the control of the CAG promoter which induces strong ubiquitous transcription in both germ cells and somatic cells, the addition of the Nanos3-3'UTR sequence to the coding region of exogenous gene was effective in restricting protein expression in germ cells.
Conclusions/significance: Our current study thus suggests that Nanos3-3'UTR has an essential role in translational control in the mouse embryo.