Editors' ChoiceReproductive Biology

Switching Spermatogenesis Off and Oogenesis On

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Science's STKE  02 May 2006:
Vol. 2006, Issue 333, pp. tw152
DOI: 10.1126/stke.3332006tw152

Male and female germ cells enter meiosis at different times. Spermatogenesis results from meiosis during fetal development, whereas oogenesis results when meiosis initiates after birth. It has been thought that germ cells enter meiosis and initiate oogenesis by default unless blocked by an uncharacterized diffusible signaling molecule produced by the testis. Bowles et al. now show that retinoid metabolism inhibits meiosis in male embryos. In both males and females, the morphogen retinoic acid is produced in the mesonephric tubules for the initiation of meiosis. The morphogen is not degraded in the ovary, but it is specifically degraded in the testis by the p450 cytochrome enzyme CYP26B1.

J. Bowles, D. Knight, C. Smith, D. Wilhelm, J. Richman, S. Mamiya, K. Yashiro, K. Chawengsaksophak, M. J. Wilson, J. Rossant, H. Hamada, P. Koopman, Retinoid signaling determines germ cell fate in mice. Science 312, 596-600 (2006). [Abstract] [Full Text]

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