Convergent evolution of germ granule nucleators: A hypothesis

Stem Cell Res. 2017 Oct;24:188-194. doi: 10.1016/j.scr.2017.07.018. Epub 2017 Jul 19.


Germ cells have been considered "the ultimate stem cell" because they alone, during normal development of sexually reproducing organisms, are able to give rise to all organismal cell types. Morphological descriptions of a specialized cytoplasm termed 'germ plasm' and associated electron dense ribonucleoprotein (RNP) structures called 'germ granules' within germ cells date back as early as the 1800s. Both germ plasm and germ granules are implicated in germ line specification across metazoans. However, at a molecular level, little is currently understood about the molecular mechanisms that assemble these entities in germ cells. The discovery that in some animals, the gene products of a small number of lineage-specific genes initiate the assembly (also termed nucleation) of germ granules and/or germ plasm is the first step towards facilitating a better understanding of these complex biological processes. Here, we draw on research spanning over 100years that supports the hypothesis that these nucleator genes may have evolved convergently, allowing them to perform analogous roles across animal lineages.

Keywords: Convergent evolution; Germ cells; Germ granules; Germ plasm; Nucleators.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Genes, Developmental
  • Germ Cells / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Phylogeny