Transcriptional and translational regulators of gene expression in germ cell development

Hye-Won Song, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Germ cell development is a highly coordinated process driven, in part, by regulatory mechanisms that control gene expression. Not only transcription, but also translation, is under regulatory control to direct proper germ cell development. In this dissertation, I have focused on two regulators of germ cell development. One is the homeobox protein RHOX10, which has the potential to be both a transcriptional and translational regulator in mouse male germ cell development. The other is the RNA-binding protein, Hermes, which functions as a translational regulator in Xenopus laevis female germ cell development. Rhox10 is a member of reproductive homeobox gene X-(linked (Rhox) gene cluster, of which expression is developmentally regulated in developing mouse testes. To identify the cell types and developmental stages in which Rhox10 might function, I characterized its temporal and spatial expression pattern in mouse embryonic, neonatal, and adult tissues. Among other things, this analysis revealed that both the level and the subcellular localization of RHOX10 are regulated during germ cell development. To understand the role of Rhox10 in germ cell development, I generated transgenic mice expressing an artificial microRNA (miRNA) targeting Rhox10. While this artificial miRNA robustly downregulated RHOX10 protein expression in vitro, it did not significantly reduce RHOX10 expression in vivo. So I next elected to knockdown RHOX10 levels in spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), which I found highly express both Rhox10 mRNA and RHOX10 protein. Using a recently developed in vitro culture system for SSCs combined with a short-hairpin RNA (shRNA) approach, I strongly depleted RHOX10 expression in SSCs. These RHOX10-depleted cells exhibited a defect in the ability to form stem cell clusters in vitro. Expression profiling analysis revealed many genes regulated by Rhox10, including many meiotic genes, which could be downstream of Rhox10 in a molecular pathway that controls SSC differentiation. RNA recognition motif (RRM) containing protein, Hermes is localized in germ plasm, where dormant mRNAs are also located, of Xenopus oocytes, which implicates its role in translational regulator. To understand the function of Hermes in oocyte meiosis, I used a morpholino oligonucleotide (MO) based knockdown approach. Microinjection of Hermes MO into fully grown oocytes, which are arrested in meiotic prophase, caused acceleration of oocytes reentry into meiosis (i.e., maturation) upon progesterone induction. Using a candidate approach, I identified at least three targets of Hermes: Ringo/Spy, Xcat2, and Mos. Ringo/Spy and Mos are known to have functions in oocyte maturation, while Ringo/Spy, Xcat2 mRNA are localized in the germ plasm of oocytes, which drives germ cell specification after fertilization. This led me to propose that Hermes functions in both oocyte maturation and germ cell development through its ability to regulate 3 crucial target mRNAs.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Cellular biology

Recommended Citation

Song, Hye-Won, "Transcriptional and translational regulators of gene expression in germ cell development" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3394530.