Primordial germ cell DNA demethylation and development require DNA translesion synthesis

Nat Commun. 2024 May 3;15(1):3734. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-47219-2.


Mutations in DNA damage response (DDR) factors are associated with human infertility, which affects up to 15% of the population. The DDR is required during germ cell development and meiosis. One pathway implicated in human fertility is DNA translesion synthesis (TLS), which allows replication impediments to be bypassed. We find that TLS is essential for pre-meiotic germ cell development in the embryo. Loss of the central TLS component, REV1, significantly inhibits the induction of human PGC-like cells (hPGCLCs). This is recapitulated in mice, where deficiencies in TLS initiation (Rev1-/- or PcnaK164R/K164R) or extension (Rev7 -/-) result in a > 150-fold reduction in the number of primordial germ cells (PGCs) and complete sterility. In contrast, the absence of TLS does not impact the growth, function, or homeostasis of somatic tissues. Surprisingly, we find a complete failure in both activation of the germ cell transcriptional program and in DNA demethylation, a critical step in germline epigenetic reprogramming. Our findings show that for normal fertility, DNA repair is required not only for meiotic recombination but for progression through the earliest stages of germ cell development in mammals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA Demethylation*
  • DNA Repair*
  • DNA Replication
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase* / genetics
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase* / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Germ Cells* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meiosis / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nucleotidyltransferases / genetics
  • Nucleotidyltransferases / metabolism
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen / metabolism
  • Translesion DNA Synthesis


  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • Nucleotidyltransferases
  • Rev1 protein, mouse
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen