Note to users. If you're seeing this message, it means that your browser cannot find this page's style/presentation instructions -- or possibly that you are using a browser that does not support current Web standards. Find out more about why this message is appearing, and what you can do to make your experience of our site the best it can be.


Logo for

Science 316 (5823): 392-393

Copyright © 2007 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Germ Versus Soma Decisions: Lessons from Flies and Worms

Susan Strome1*, and Ruth Lehmann2*

Abstract: The early embryo is formed by the fusion of two germ cells that must generate not only all of the nonreproductive somatic cell types of its body but also the germ cells for the next generation. Therefore, embryo cells face a crucial decision: whether to develop as germ or soma. How is this fundamental decision made and germ cell fate maintained during development? Studies in the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans and fruit fly Drosophila identify some of the decision-making strategies, including segregation of a specialized germ plasm and global transcriptional regulation.

1 Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.
2 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Skirball Institute, Department of Cell Biology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: sstrome{at}; lehmann{at}

DNA methylation dynamics during epigenetic reprogramming in the germline and preimplantation embryos.
D. M. Messerschmidt, B. B. Knowles, and D. Solter (2014)
Genes & Dev. 28, 812-828
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
A Non-Cell Autonomous Role of E(z) to Prevent Germ Cells from Turning on a Somatic Cell Marker.
S. H. Eun, Z. Shi, K. Cui, K. Zhao, and X. Chen (2014)
Science 343, 1513-1516
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Fine-tuning evolution: germ-line epigenetics and inheritance.
J. M. Stringer, S. Barrand, and P. Western (2013)
Reproduction 146, R37-R48
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Posttranscriptional Regulation of Histone Lysine Methyltransferase GLP in Embryonic Male Mouse Germ Cells.
K. Deguchi, G. Nagamatsu, H. Miyachi, Y. Kato, S. Morita, H. Kimura, S. Kitano, I. Hatada, Y. Saga, M. Tachibana, et al. (2013)
Biol Reprod 88, 36
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
ifet-1 is a broad-scale translational repressor required for normal P granule formation in C. elegans.
M. S. Sengupta, W. Y. Low, J. R. Patterson, H.-M. Kim, A. Traven, T. H. Beilharz, M. P. Colaiacovo, J. A. Schisa, and P. R. Boag (2013)
J. Cell Sci. 126, 850-859
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
piRNA and spermatogenesis in mice.
S. Chuma and T. Nakano (2013)
Phil Trans R Soc B 368, 20110338
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
PGL proteins self associate and bind RNPs to mediate germ granule assembly in C. elegans.
M. Hanazawa, M. Yonetani, and A. Sugimoto (2011)
J. Cell Biol. 192, 929-937
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Active liquid-like behavior of nucleoli determines their size and shape in Xenopus laevis oocytes.
C. P. Brangwynne, T. J. Mitchison, and A. A. Hyman (2011)
PNAS 108, 4334-4339
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Toward Reprogramming Gonads to Brains.
S. Strome (2011)
Science 331, 292-293
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Germ Cell Genes and Cancer.
X. Wu and G. Ruvkun (2010)
Science 330, 1761-1762
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Ectopic Expression of Germline Genes Drives Malignant Brain Tumor Growth in Drosophila.
A. Janic, L. Mendizabal, S. Llamazares, D. Rossell, and C. Gonzalez (2010)
Science 330, 1824-1827
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Epigenetic Reprogramming of Mouse Germ Cells toward Totipotency.
M. A. Surani and P. Hajkova (2010)
Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol
   Abstract »    PDF »
Elective affinities: a Tudor-Aubergine tale of germline partnership.
A. Vourekas, Y. Kirino, and Z. Mourelatos (2010)
Genes & Dev. 24, 1963-1966
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Zebrafish dead end possesses ATPase activity that is required for primordial germ cell development.
W. Liu and P. Collodi (2010)
FASEB J 24, 2641-2650
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Smed-SmB, a member of the LSm protein superfamily, is essential for chromatoid body organization and planarian stem cell proliferation.
E. Fernandez-Taboada, S. Moritz, D. Zeuschner, M. Stehling, H. R. Scholer, E. Salo, and L. Gentile (2010)
Development 137, 1055-1065
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Arginine Methylation of Vasa Protein Is Conserved across Phyla.
Y. Kirino, A. Vourekas, N. Kim, F. de Lima Alves, J. Rappsilber, P. S. Klein, T. A. Jongens, and Z. Mourelatos (2010)
J. Biol. Chem. 285, 8148-8154
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Repression of zygotic gene expression in the Xenopus germline.
T. Venkatarama, F. Lai, X. Luo, Y. Zhou, K. Newman, and M. L. King (2010)
Development 137, 651-660
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Arginine methylation of Aubergine mediates Tudor binding and germ plasm localization.
Y. Kirino, A. Vourekas, N. Sayed, F. de Lima Alves, T. Thomson, P. Lasko, J. Rappsilber, T. A. Jongens, and Z. Mourelatos (2010)
RNA 16, 70-78
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
The Arabidopsis Tandem Zinc Finger Protein AtTZF1 Traffics between the Nucleus and Cytoplasmic Foci and Binds Both DNA and RNA.
M. C. Pomeranz, C. Hah, P.-C. Lin, S. G. Kang, J. J. Finer, P. J. Blackshear, and J.-C. Jang (2010)
Plant Physiology 152, 151-165
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
A functional antagonism between the pgc germline repressor and torso in the development of somatic cells.
J. M. de las Heras, R. G. Martinho, R. Lehmann, and J. Casanova (2009)
EMBO Rep. 10, 1059-1065
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Germline P Granules Are Liquid Droplets That Localize by Controlled Dissolution/Condensation.
C. P. Brangwynne, C. R. Eckmann, D. S. Courson, A. Rybarska, C. Hoege, J. Gharakhani, F. Julicher, and A. A. Hyman (2009)
Science 324, 1729-1732
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Male gametophyte development: a molecular perspective.
M. Borg, L. Brownfield, and D. Twell (2009)
J. Exp. Bot. 60, 1465-1478
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Regulating Gene Expression in the Drosophila Germ Line.
P. Rangan, M. DeGennaro, and R. Lehmann (2009)
Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol
   Abstract »    PDF »
Germ Line, Stem Cells, and Epigenetic Reprogramming.
M.A. Surani, G. Durcova-Hills, P. Hajkova, K. Hayashi, and W.W. Tee (2008)
Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol
   Abstract »    PDF »
Protection of specific maternal messenger RNAs by the P body protein CGH-1 (Dhh1/RCK) during Caenorhabditis elegans oogenesis.
P. R. Boag, A. Atalay, S. Robida, V. Reinke, and T. K. Blackwell (2008)
J. Cell Biol. 182, 543-557
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Genetic Analysis of the Caenorhabditis elegans GLH Family of P-Granule Proteins.
C. Spike, N. Meyer, E. Racen, A. Orsborn, J. Kirchner, K. Kuznicki, C. Yee, K. Bennett, and S. Strome (2008)
Genetics 178, 1973-1987
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
DEPS-1 promotes P-granule assembly and RNA interference in C. elegans germ cells.
C. A. Spike, J. Bader, V. Reinke, and S. Strome (2008)
Development 135, 983-993
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Germ Cell Specification in Mice.
K. Hayashi, S. M. C. de Sousa Lopes, and M. A. Surani (2007)
Science 316, 394-396
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »

To Advertise     Find Products

Science Signaling. ISSN 1937-9145 (online), 1945-0877 (print). Pre-2008: Science's STKE. ISSN 1525-8882