Skugor, A., Slanchev, K., Torgersen, J.S., Tveiten, H., and Andersen, O. (2014) Conserved Mechanisms for Germ Cell-Specific Localization of nanos3 Transcripts in Teleost Species with Aquaculture Significance. Marine Biotechnology. 16(3):256-64.
The importance of the aquaculture production is increasing with the declining global fish stocks, but early sexual maturation in several farmed species reduces muscle growth and quality, and escapees could have a negative impact on wild populations. A possible solution to these problems is the production of sterile fish by ablation of the embryonic primordial germ cells (PGCs), a technique developed in zebrafish. Cell-specific regulation of mRNA stability is crucial for proper specification of the germ cell lineage and commonly involves microRNA (miRNA)-mediated degradation of targeted mRNAs in somatic cells. This study reports on the functional roles of conserved motifs in the 32 untranslated region (UTR) of the miRNA target gene nanos3 identified in Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon, and zebrafish. The 32UTR of cod nanos3 was sufficient for targeting the expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) to the presumptive PGCs in injected embryos of the three phylogenetically distant species. 32UTR elements of importance for PGC-specific expression were further examined by fusing truncated 32UTR variants of cod nanos3 to GFP followed by injections in zebrafish embryos. The expression patterns of the GFP constructs in PGCs and somatic cells suggested that the proximal U-rich region is responsible for the PGC-specific stabilization of the endogenous nanos3 mRNA. Morpholino-mediated downregulation of the RNA-binding protein Dead end (DnD), a PGC-specific inhibitor of miRNA action, abolished the fluorescence of the PGCs in cod and zebrafish embryos, suggesting a conserved DnD-dependent mechanism for germ cell survival and migration.