Germ cells are specified by one of two well-characterised modes: via maternally inherited germ plasm (as seen in the case of Drosophila, C. elegans, Xenopus and zebrafish) or via inductive signals later during embryogenesis (as in the case of many metazoans, including mice). Given that the inductive mode is more prevalent, it has been proposed that it is the ancestral mode of germ cell specification in bilaterians, although molecular evidence for this has been lacking. Now, on p. 255, Taro Nakamura and Cassandra Extavour show that the transcriptional repressor Blimp-1, which is a master regulator of germ cell formation in mice, is required to generate primordial germ cells (PGCs) in the cricket Gryllus bimaculatus. The researchers show that Gb-Blimp-1, the G. bimaculatus homologue of mammalian Blimp-1, is dynamically expressed during germ band elongation. Using RNAi, they further show that Gb-Blimp-1 is required for PGC formation. Finally, the authors demonstrate that, as in mice, Blimp-1 in G. bimaculatus acts downstream of BMP signals to specify cells to a PGC fate. Overall, these findings highlight functional conservation of the relationship between BMP signalling and Blimp-1 during PGC specification, supporting the idea that an inductive mode governed germ cell specification in the last common bilaterian ancestor.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd