Continuing primordial germ cell differentiation in the mouse embryo is a cell-intrinsic program sensitive to DNA methylation

Danielle M. Maatouk, James L. Resnick*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The initial cohort of mammalian gametes is established by the proliferation of primordial germ cells in the early embryo. Primordial germ cells first appear in extraembyronic tissues and subsequently migrate to the developing gonad. Soon after they arrive in the gonad, the germ cells cease dividing and undertake sexually dimorphic patterns of development. Male germ cells arrest mitotically, while female germ cells directly enter meiotic prophase I. These sex-specific differentiation events are imposed upon a group of sex-common differentiation events that are shared by XX and XY germ cells. We have studied the appearance of GCNA1, a postmigratory sex-common germ cell marker, in cultures of premigratory germ cells to investigate how this differentiation program is regulated. Cultures in which proliferation was either inhibited or stimulated displayed a similar extent of differentiation as controls, suggesting that some differentiation events are the result of a cell-intrinsic program and are independent of cell proliferation. We also found that GCNA1 expression was accelerated by agents which promote DNA demethylation or histone acetylation. These results suggest that genomic demethylation of proliferative phase primordial germ cells is a mechanism by which germ cell maturation is coordinated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-208
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003


  • GCNA1
  • Gonocytes
  • Primordial germ cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

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