Segregation of the germ line from the soma is an essential event for transmission of genetic information across generations in all sexually reproducing animals. Although some well-studied systems such as Drosophila and Xenopus use maternally inherited germ determinants to specify germ cells, most animals, including mice, appear to utilize zygotic inductive cell signals to specify germ cells during later embryogenesis. Such inductive germ cell specification is thought to be an ancestral trait of Bilateria, but major questions remain as to the nature of an ancestral mechanism to induce germ cells, and how that mechanism evolved. We previously reported that BMP signaling-based germ cell induction is conserved in both the mouse Mus musculus and the cricket Gryllus bimaculatus, which is an emerging model organism for functional studies of induction-based germ cell formation. In order to gain further insight into the functional evolution of germ cell specification, here we examined the Gryllus ortholog of the transcription factor Blimp-1 (also known as Prdm1), which is a widely conserved bilaterian gene known to play a crucial role in the specification of germ cells in mice. Our functional analyses of the Gryllus Blimp-1 ortholog revealed that it is essential for Gryllus primordial germ cell development, and is regulated by upstream input from the BMP signaling pathway. This functional conservation of the epistatic relationship between BMP signaling and Blimp-1 in inductive germ cell specification between mouse and cricket supports the hypothesis that this molecular mechanism regulated primordial germ cell specification in a last common bilaterian ancestor.
Keywords: Blimp1; Gryllus bimaculatus; Inductive signaling; PGC; Prdm1; Primordial germ cell; RNA interference.
© 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.