Balancing act — How Nodal and Bmp signaling impact the emergence of primordial germ cells in mice

Balancing act — How Nodal and Bmp signaling impact the emergence of primordial germ cells in mice

Multicellular organisms consist of two fundamental types of cells: somatic cells and germ cells. While somatic cells make up most of the organism, germ cells are a small group of cells in the gonads that undergo meiosis to produce haploid gametes—either the oocyte or the spermatocyte. These cells are capable of generating a new organism after fertilization, thus transmitting genetic information from one generation to another. Early in development, the primordial germ cells (PGCs) are set aside as the precursors of sperm and eggs. We still do not have a complete understanding of exactly how these cell-fate decisions are made in development.

Dr. Anna Senft and colleagues in the Robertson lab have used transgenic mouse embryos to determine that two signaling pathways—Nodal and Bmp—and their downstream effectors, the Smad proteins, cooperate to regulate the numbers and development of PGCs. The balance of Nodal/Bmp signaling in embryonic and extra-embryonic tissues of the early embryo provide early instructions for the specification of the PGC lineage, while protecting PGCs from a somatic fate.

Derek Xu

Senft AD, Bikoff EK, Robertson EJ, Costello I.

Nat Commun10(1):1089. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-09052-w.