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      Primordial germ cell development in the marmoset monkey as revealed by pluripotency factor expression: suggestion of a novel model of embryonic germ cell translocation

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          Primordial germ cells (PGCs) are the embryonic progenitors of sperm and egg cells. Mammalian PGCs are thought to actively migrate from the yolk sac endoderm over long distances across the embryo to reach the somatic genital ridges. The general principles of mammalian PGC development were discovered in mice. In contrast, little is known about PGC development in primates due to extremely limited access to primate embryos. Here, we analyzed 12 well preserved marmoset monkey ( Callithrix jacchus) embryos covering the phase from PGC emergence in the endoderm to the formation of the sexually differentiated gonad (embryonic day (E) 50 to E95). We show using immunohistochemistry that the pluripotency factors OCT4A and NANOG specifically mark PGCs throughout the period studied. In contrast, SALL4 and LIN28 were first expressed ubiquitously and only later down-regulated in somatic tissues. We further show, for the first time, that PGCs are located in the endoderm in E50 embryos in close spatial proximity to the prospective genital ridge, making a long-range migration of PGCs dispensable. At E65, PGCs are already present in the primitive gonad, while significantly later embryonic stages still exhibit PGCs at their original endodermal site, revealing a wide spatio-temporal window of PGC distribution. Our findings challenge the ‘dogma’ of active long-range PGC migration from the endoderm to the gonads. We therefore favor an alternative model based primarily on passive translocation of PGCs from the mesenchyme that surrounds the gut to the prospective gonad through the intercalar expansion of mesenchymal tissue which contains the PGCs. In summary, we (i) show differential pluripotency factor expression during primate embryo development and (ii) provide a schematic model for embryonic PGC translocation.

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          Most cited references 65

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          Induced pluripotent stem cell lines derived from human somatic cells.

          Somatic cell nuclear transfer allows trans-acting factors present in the mammalian oocyte to reprogram somatic cell nuclei to an undifferentiated state. We show that four factors (OCT4, SOX2, NANOG, and LIN28) are sufficient to reprogram human somatic cells to pluripotent stem cells that exhibit the essential characteristics of embryonic stem (ES) cells. These induced pluripotent human stem cells have normal karyotypes, express telomerase activity, express cell surface markers and genes that characterize human ES cells, and maintain the developmental potential to differentiate into advanced derivatives of all three primary germ layers. Such induced pluripotent human cell lines should be useful in the production of new disease models and in drug development, as well as for applications in transplantation medicine, once technical limitations (for example, mutation through viral integration) are eliminated.
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            Core transcriptional regulatory circuitry in human embryonic stem cells.

            The transcription factors OCT4, SOX2, and NANOG have essential roles in early development and are required for the propagation of undifferentiated embryonic stem (ES) cells in culture. To gain insights into transcriptional regulation of human ES cells, we have identified OCT4, SOX2, and NANOG target genes using genome-scale location analysis. We found, surprisingly, that OCT4, SOX2, and NANOG co-occupy a substantial portion of their target genes. These target genes frequently encode transcription factors, many of which are developmentally important homeodomain proteins. Our data also indicate that OCT4, SOX2, and NANOG collaborate to form regulatory circuitry consisting of autoregulatory and feedforward loops. These results provide new insights into the transcriptional regulation of stem cells and reveal how OCT4, SOX2, and NANOG contribute to pluripotency and self-renewal.
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              Quantitative expression of Oct-3/4 defines differentiation, dedifferentiation or self-renewal of ES cells.

              Cell fate during development is defined by transcription factors that act as molecular switches to activate or repress specific gene expression programmes. The POU transcription factor Oct-3/4 (encoded by Pou5f1) is a candidate regulator in pluripotent and germline cells and is essential for the initial formation of a pluripotent founder cell population in the mammalian embryo. Here we use conditional expression and repression in embryonic stem (ES) cells to determine requirements for Oct-3/4 in the maintenance of developmental potency. Although transcriptional determination has usually been considered as a binary on-off control system, we found that the precise level of Oct-3/4 governs three distinct fates of ES cells. A less than twofold increase in expression causes differentiation into primitive endoderm and mesoderm. In contrast, repression of Oct-3/4 induces loss of pluripotency and dedifferentiation to trophectoderm. Thus a critical amount of Oct-3/4 is required to sustain stem-cell self-renewal, and up- or downregulation induce divergent developmental programmes. Our findings establish a role for Oct-3/4 as a master regulator of pluripotency that controls lineage commitment and illustrate the sophistication of critical transcriptional regulators and the consequent importance of quantitative analyses.

                Author and article information

                Mol Hum Reprod
                Mol. Hum. Reprod
                Molecular Human Reproduction
                Oxford University Press
                January 2015
                18 September 2014
                18 September 2014
                : 21
                : 1 , Special Issue: Mitochondria: their genome and their contribution to well-being and disease
                : 66-80
                [1 ]Stem Cell Biology Unit, German Primate Center – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research , Kellnerweg 4, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
                [2 ]Department of Anatomy and Embryology, Center of Anatomy, University of Göttingen , Kreuzbergring 36, 37075 Göttingen, Germany
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence address. Stem Cell Biology Unit, German Primate Center, Kellnerweg 4, 37077 Göttingen, Germany. Tel: +49-551-3851-132; Fax: +49-551–3851–431; E-mail: rbehr@
                © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact


                Obstetrics & Gynecology

                marmoset monkey, embryo, pluripotency factor, primordial germ cell


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