GCNA Preserves Genome Integrity and Fertility Across Species

Dev Cell. 2020 Jan 6;52(1):38-52.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2019.11.007. Epub 2019 Dec 12.


The propagation of species depends on the ability of germ cells to protect their genome from numerous exogenous and endogenous threats. While these cells employ ubiquitous repair pathways, specialized mechanisms that ensure high-fidelity replication, chromosome segregation, and repair of germ cell genomes remain incompletely understood. We identified Germ Cell Nuclear Acidic Peptidase (GCNA) as a conserved regulator of genome stability in flies, worms, zebrafish, and human germ cell tumors. GCNA contains an acidic intrinsically disordered region (IDR) and a protease-like SprT domain. In addition to chromosomal instability and replication stress, Gcna mutants accumulate DNA-protein crosslinks (DPCs). GCNA acts in parallel with the SprT domain protein Spartan. Structural analysis reveals that while the SprT domain is needed to limit DNA damage, the IDR imparts significant function. This work shows that GCNA protects germ cells from various sources of damage, providing insights into conserved mechanisms that promote genome integrity across generations.

Keywords: ACRC; DNA repair; DNA-protein crosslink; SprT domain; acidic repeat containing; chromosome instability; chromosome segregation; germ cell; intrinsically disordered region; transgenerational inheritance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • DNA Copy Number Variations
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA Repair*
  • DNA Replication*
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Female
  • Fertility*
  • Genome
  • Genomic Instability*
  • Germ Cells / cytology
  • Germ Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / genetics
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / metabolism
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / pathology
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism*
  • Peptide Hydrolases / genetics
  • Peptide Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Protein Domains
  • Species Specificity
  • Zebrafish


  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Peptide Hydrolases