Tdrd6a Regulates the Aggregation of Buc into Functional Subcellular Compartments that Drive Germ Cell Specification

Dev Cell. 2018 Aug 6;46(3):285-301.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2018.07.009.


Phase separation represents an important form of subcellular compartmentalization. However, relatively little is known about how the formation or disassembly of such compartments is regulated. In zebrafish, the Balbiani body (Bb) and the germ plasm (Gp) are intimately linked phase-separated structures essential for germ cell specification and home to many germ cell-specific mRNAs and proteins. Throughout development, these structures occur as a single large aggregate (Bb), which disperses throughout oogenesis and upon fertilization accumulates again into relatively large assemblies (Gp). Formation of the Bb requires Bucky ball (Buc), a protein with prion-like properties. We found that the multi-tudor domain-containing protein Tdrd6a interacts with Buc, affecting its mobility and aggregation properties. Importantly, lack of this regulatory interaction leads to significant defects in germ cell development. Our work presents insights into how prion-like protein aggregations can be regulated and highlights the biological relevance of such regulatory events.

Keywords: Balbiani body; Bucky ball; Tdrd6; Tudor domain; arginine methylation; germ plasm; phase separation; primordial germ cell; prion-like domain; zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Germ Cells / metabolism*
  • Oocytes / metabolism*
  • Oogenesis / physiology*
  • Organelles / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Zebrafish
  • Zebrafish Proteins / metabolism*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • buc protein, zebrafish