The multiple hats of Vasa: its functions in the germline and in cell cycle progression

Mol Reprod Dev. Oct-Nov 2011;78(10-11):861-7. doi: 10.1002/mrd.21363. Epub 2011 Aug 5.


Vasa, an ATP-dependent RNA helicase, is broadly conserved among various organisms from cnidarians to mammals. It has a rich history of utility as a germline marker, and is believed to function as a positive translational regulator in the determination and maintenance of germline cells. Studies in non-model organisms, however, revealed that Vasa is also present in somatic cells of many tissues. In many cases these cells are multipotent, are non-germline associated, and give rise to a variety of different tissue types. Recent work now also demonstrates that Vasa functions in the regulation of the cell cycle. Here, we discuss this newly described function of Vasa in mitotic and meiotic cell cycles, and we address the conundrum created within these observations, that is, that most cells are mitotically independent of Vasa, yet when Vasa is present in a cell, it appears to be essential for cell cycle progression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle / genetics*
  • Cell Cycle / physiology
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / genetics
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / metabolism
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Germ Cells / enzymology
  • Germ Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Microtubules / physiology
  • Mitosis / genetics
  • Mitosis / physiology
  • Models, Biological


  • DDX4 protein, human
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases