Mouse zinc finger and SCAN domain containing 4 (Zscan4) proteins, which are encoded by multiple copies of Zscan4 genes, are expressed specifically in preimplantation embryos in vivo and embryonic stem (ES) cells in vitro. However, the expression patterns of mouse Zscan4 in vivo have been largely elusive. Here, we show that Zscan4 proteins are expressed in adult ovaries and testes. In ovaries, Zscan4 proteins were detected in germinal vesicle (GV) stage oocytes in antral follicles, indicating that Zscan4 genes are activated during the diplotene/dictyate stage in meiotic prophase I. Remarkably, Zscan4 showed different spatial localization patterns between two distinct GV oocytes, which can be distinguished by global chromatin organization-surrounded nucleolus (SN) and non-surrounded nucleolus (NSN). These spatiotemporal differences in Zscan4 localizations correlated with the transition of RNA polymerase II-mediated transcriptional status during GV oocyte maturation. In testes, Zscan4 proteins were detected in spermatocytes at late pachytene/diplotene stages and in Sertoli cells. These results suggest that Zscan4 may play critical roles during late meiotic prophase in both males and females.
Keywords: ES cell; GV oocyte; Ovary; Preimplantation embryo; SN and NSN oocyte; Testis.