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A Non–Cell Autonomous Role of E(z) to Prevent Germ Cells from Turning on a Somatic Cell Marker

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Science  28 Mar 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6178, pp. 1513-1516
DOI: 10.1126/science.1246514

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Keeping Germ Cells Special

Germ cells separate from the somatic lineage during early metazoan development. Eun et al. (p. 1513) found that Drosophila germ cells lose their identity and turn on somatic cell–specific marker expression in adult testes when a Polycomb group component E(z) is inactivated in somatic cells. However, only early-stage germ cells, including germline stem cells, retain this plasticity. Thus, one role for somatic cells in male gonads is to antagonize somatic identity in germ cells.

Abstract

In many metazoans, germ cells are separated from somatic lineages early in development and maintain their identity throughout life. Here, we show that a Polycomb group (PcG) component, Enhancer of Zeste [E(z)], a histone transferase that generates trimethylation at lysine 27 of histone H3, maintains germline identity in Drosophila adult testes. We find excessive early-stage somatic gonadal cells in E(z) mutant testes, which originate from both overproliferative cyst stem cells and germ cells turning on an early-stage somatic cell marker. Using complementary lineage-tracing experiments in E(z) mutant testes, a portion of excessive early-stage somatic gonadal cells are found to originate from early-stage germ cells, including germline stem cells. Moreover, knocking down E(z) specifically in somatic cells caused this change, which suggests a non–cell autonomous role of E(z) to antagonize somatic identity in germ cells.

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