The germ cell lineage ensures reproduction and heredity. The mechanism for germ cell specification in primates, including humans, has remained unknown. In primates, upon implantation the pluripotent epiblast segregates the amnion, an extra-embryonic membrane eventually ensheathing an embryo, and thereafter initiates gastrulation to generate three germ layers. Here, we show that in cynomolgus monkeys, the SOX17/TFAP2C/BLIMP1-positive primordial germ cells (cyPGCs) originate from the dorsal amnion at embryonic day 11 (E11) prior to gastrulation. cyPGCs appear to migrate down the amnion and, through proliferation and recruitment from the posterior amnion, expand in number around the posterior yolk sac by E17. Remarkably, the amnion itself expresses BMP4 and WNT3A, cytokines potentially critical for cyPGC specification, and responds primarily to them. Moreover, human PGC-like cells in vitro exhibit a transcriptome similar to cyPGCs just after specification. Our study identifies the origin of PGCs and a unique function of the nascent amnion in primates.
Keywords: BLIMP1; BMP4; SOX17; amnion; cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis); epiblast; monkeys; primordial germ cells; specification.
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