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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Disruption of genital ridge development causes aberrant primordial germ cell proliferation but does not affect their directional migration

Su-Ren Chen12, Qiao-Song Zheng1, Yang Zhang1, Fei Gao1* and Yi-Xun Liu1*

Author affiliations

1 State Key Laboratory of Reproductive Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1 Beichen West Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100101, China

2 University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.19A Yuquan Road, Shijingshan District, Beijing, 100049, China

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Citation and License

BMC Biology 2013, 11:22  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-11-22

Published: 5 March 2013



The directional migration and the following development of primordial germ cells (PGCs) during gonad formation are key steps for germline development. It has been proposed that the interaction between germ cells and genital ridge (GR) somatic cells plays essential roles in this process. However, the in vivo functional requirements of GR somatic cells in germ cell development are largely unknown.


Wt1 mutation (Wt1R394W/R394W) results in GR agenesis through mitotic arrest of coelomic epitheliums. In this study, we employed the GR-deficient mouse model, Wt1R394W/R394W, to investigate the roles of GR somatic cells in PGC migration and proliferation. We found that the number of PGCs was dramatically reduced in GR-deficient embryos at embryonic day (E) 11.5 and E12.5 due to decreased proliferation of PGCs, involving low levels of BMP signaling. In contrast, the germ cells in Wt1R394W/R394W embryos were still mitotically active at E13.5, while all the germ cells in control embryos underwent mitotic arrest at this stage. Strikingly, the directional migration of PGCs was not affected by the absence of GR somatic cells. Most of the PGCs reached the mesenchyme under the coelomic epithelium at E10.5 and no ectopic PGCs were noted in GR-deficient embryos. However, the precise positioning of PGCs was disrupted.


Our work provides in vivo evidence that the proliferation of germ cells is precisely regulated by GR somatic cells during different stages of gonad development. GR somatic cells are probably dispensable for the directional migration of PGCs, but they are required for precise positioning of PGCs at the final step of migration.

Primordial germ cells; Genital ridge; Migration, Proliferation