Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Decisions, decisions: Male or female?

29.08.2005


How germ cells decide whether to be sperm or eggs

Johns Hopkins biologists have determined how developing embryos tell their specialized "germ cells" whether to develop into a male’s sperm or a female’s eggs.

Present in both male and female embryos, germ cells are the precursors to both sperm and eggs. Unable to "decide" on their own which to become, however, germ cells must take "advice" from other cells within embryos as to which is the appropriate sex. The Johns Hopkins researchers have found that this advice is delivered by a sequence of chemical reactions called the "JAK/STAT" pathway. ("JAK/STAT" is an acronym for "Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator transcription.")



"Though we all know that the survival of the species depends on producing children, up until now we haven’t understood how germ cells in the developing embryos decide whether to eventually become the sperm or eggs needed later for adult reproduction," said Mark Van Doren, assistant professor in the Department of Biology in the university’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. "Now we know one way these other cells are talking to germ cells about sex."

Van Doren was co-author of the study, published in the July 28 issue of the journal Nature. The discovery promises to enhance understanding of infertility and even some forms of cancer and could eventually lead to the development of more effective treatments for both.

Led by Van Doren and post-doctoral fellow Matthew Wawersik, the Johns Hopkins team used specialized microscopes at the university’s Integrated Imaging Center to look at certain molecules and cell types in fruit fly embryos. Though they already knew that the JAK/STAT pathway was an important means of various types of cell-to-cell communication, they discovered that embryos also were using that pathway to send germ cells signals regarding sexual identity.

"This work implicates that pathway as a key regulator of early decisions made by germ cells as to whether to eventually develop into eggs or sperm," Wawersik said.

Though the team’s observations were limited to the pathway’s role in fruit fly germ cell communication, Van Doren said the same conduit also is active in humans and mice. When communication via the JAK/STAT pathway misfires, diseases such as cancer can result, he said.

"Evolutionarily, germ cells are one of the most ancient cell types, needed by every type of animal to reproduce," Van Doren said. "Their developmental program is very similar, whether we are talking fruit flies or humans. As a result, these findings could eventually help us understand and treat defects in germ cell development that lead to human infertility and disease."

Lisa De Nike | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.jhu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Hunting pathogens at full force
22.03.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

nachricht A 155 carat diamond with 92 mm diameter
22.03.2017 | Universität Augsburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Pulverizing electronic waste is green, clean -- and cold

22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers hazard a ride in a 'drifting carousel' to understand pulsating stars

22.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New gel-like coating beefs up the performance of lithium-sulfur batteries

22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>