Olsen Group - Germline Development
(January 1999 - October 2004)

Segregation of germ soma occurs early during animal development. In several species, both vertebrates and invertebrates, subcellular structures called germ granules (or nuage) which consist of RNA and proteins, have been found to segregate with the germ cell lineage. Based on the correlation between germ granule distribution and the development of the germ cell lineage, these granules are thought to function in regulation and/or maintainance of the germ cell fate.

Green fluorescent protein in the
germline of a 36h old
zebrafish embryo

Several genes controlling germ cell formation in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and the nematode C. elegans have been identified and found to encode germ plasm or germ granule components. The function of the germ granules and its components is still unknown.

Our goal is to gain insight into the molecular mechanisms regulating germ cell fate in vertebrates. We are using zebrafish (Danio rerio) as our model organism.

To this end, we have isolated zebrafish vlg, a homologue of Drosophila vasa, a gene which is expressed in the germline. Vasa is a DEAD box RNA helicase and the protein most likely functions as a translational regulator. The Vasa protein has been shown to be a germ granule component in flies, nematodes and chicken. Possible targets for Vasa protein may be the RNA components of the germ granules or granule interacting mRNAs. In order to gain insight into the function(s) of zebrafish Vlg protein during germline development, we have decided to search for its potential RNA targets.

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