Members of the DAZ (Deleted in AZoospermia) gene family are important players in the process of gametogenesis and their dysregulation accounts for 10% of human male infertility. Boule, the ancestor of the family, is mainly involved in male meiosis in most organisms. With the exception of Drosophila and C. elegans, nothing is known on the function of boule in non-vertebrate animals. In the present study, we report on three boule orthologues in the flatworm Macrostomum lignano. We demonstrate that macbol1 and macbol2 are expressed in testes whilst macbol3 is expressed in ovaries and developing eggs. Macbol1 RNAi blocked spermatocyte differentiation whereas macbol2 showed no effect upon RNAi treatment. Macbol3 RNAi resulted in aberrant egg maturation and led to female sterility. We further demonstrated the evolutionary functional conservation of macbol1 by introducing this gene into Drosophila bol(1) mutants. Macbol1 was able to rescue the progression of fly meiotic divisions. In summary, our findings provide evidence for an involvement of boule genes in male and female gamete development in one organism. Furthermore, boule gene function is shown here for the first time in a lophotrochozoan. Our results point to a more diverse functional assignment of boule genes. Therefore, a better understanding of boule function in flatworms can help to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of and concomitant infertility in higher organisms including humans.
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