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Control of mammalian germ cell entry into meiosis

Feng, Chun-Wei, Bowles, Josephine, Koopman, Peter
Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 2014 v.382 pp. 488-497
adults, animal ovaries, females, genes, males, mammals, meiosis, neoplasms, oocytes, puberty, reproduction, retinoic acid, spermatozoa, testes
Germ cells are unique in undergoing meiosis to generate oocytes and sperm. In mammals, meiosis onset is before birth in females, or at puberty in males, and recent studies have uncovered several regulatory steps involved in initiating meiosis in each sex. Evidence suggests that retinoic acid (RA) induces expression of the critical pre-meiosis gene Stra8 in germ cells of the fetal ovary, pubertal testis and adult testis. In the fetal testis, CYP26B1 degrades RA, while FGF9 further antagonises RA signalling to suppress meiosis. Failsafe mechanisms involving Nanos2 may further suppress meiosis in the fetal testis. Here, we draw together the growing knowledge relating to these meiotic control mechanisms, and present evidence that they are co-ordinately regulated and that additional factors remain to be identified. Understanding this regulatory network will illuminate not only how the foundations of mammalian reproduction are laid, but also how mis-regulation of these steps can result in infertility or germline tumours.