Germ cell nuclear factor regulates gametogenesis in developing gonads

PLoS One. 2014 Aug 20;9(8):e103985. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103985. eCollection 2014.


Expression of germ cell nuclear factor (GCNF; Nr6a1), an orphan member of the nuclear receptor gene family of transcription factors, during gastrulation and neurulation is critical for normal embryogenesis in mice. Gcnf represses the expression of the POU-domain transcription factor Oct4 (Pou5f1) during mouse post-implantation development. Although Gcnf expression is not critical for the embryonic segregation of the germ cell lineage, we found that sexually dimorphic expression of Gcnf in germ cells correlates with the expression of pluripotency-associated genes, such as Oct4, Sox2, and Nanog, as well as the early meiotic marker gene Stra8. To elucidate the role of Gcnf during mouse germ cell differentiation, we generated an ex vivo Gcnf-knockdown model in combination with a regulated CreLox mutation of Gcnf. Lack of Gcnf impairs normal spermatogenesis and oogenesis in vivo, as well as the derivation of germ cells from embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in vitro. Inactivation of the Gcnf gene in vivo leads to loss of repression of Oct4 expression in both male and female gonads.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gametogenesis / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gonads / growth & development*
  • Gonads / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 6, Group A, Member 1 / genetics
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 6, Group A, Member 1 / metabolism*
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / metabolism


  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 6, Group A, Member 1
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3