Weidinger, G., Stebler, J., Slanchev, K., Dumstrei, K., Wise, C., Lovell-Badge, R., Thisse, C., Thisse, B., and Raz, E. (2003) dead end, a novel vertebrate germ plasm component, is required for zebrafish primordial germ cell migration and survival. Current biology : CB. 13(16):1429-1434.
In most animals, primordial germ cell (PGC) specification and development depend on maternally provided cytoplasmic determinants that constitute the so-called germ plasm. Little is known about the role of germ plasm in vertebrate germ cell development, and its molecular mode of action remains elusive. While PGC specification in mammals occurs via different mechanisms, several germ plasm components required for early PGC development in lower organisms are expressed in mammalian germ cells after their migration to the gonad and are involved in gametogenesis. Here we show that the RNA of dead end, encoding a novel putative RNA binding protein, is a component of the germ plasm in zebrafish and is specifically expressed in PGCs throughout embryogenesis; Dead End protein is localized to perinuclear germ granules within PGCs. Knockdown of dead end blocks confinement of PGCs to the deep blastoderm shortly after their specification and results in failure of PGCs to exhibit motile behavior and to actively migrate thereafter. PGCs subsequently die, while somatic development is not effected. We have identified dead end orthologs in other vertebrates including Xenopus, mouse, and chick, where they are expressed in germ plasm and germ-line cells, suggesting a role in germ-line development in these organisms as well.