Specifying and protecting germ cell fate

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2015 Jul;16(7):406-16. doi: 10.1038/nrm4009.


Germ cells are the special cells in the body that undergo meiosis to generate gametes and subsequently entire new organisms after fertilization, a process that continues generation after generation. Recent studies have expanded our understanding of the factors and mechanisms that specify germ cell fate, including the partitioning of maternally supplied 'germ plasm', inheritance of epigenetic memory and expression of transcription factors crucial for primordial germ cell (PGC) development. Even after PGCs are specified, germline fate is labile and thus requires protective mechanisms, such as global transcriptional repression, chromatin state alteration and translation of only germline-appropriate transcripts. Findings from diverse species continue to provide insights into the shared and divergent needs of these special reproductive cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytoplasmic Granules
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / cytology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Germ Cells / cytology*
  • Germ Cells / metabolism*