On the development of extragonadal and gonadal human germ cells

A Marijne Heeren, Nannan He, Aline F de Souza, Angelique Goercharn-Ramlal, Liesbeth van Iperen, Matthias S Roost, Maria M Gomes Fernandes, Lucette A J van der Westerlaken, Susana M Chuva de Sousa Lopes

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Human germ cells originate in an extragonadal location and have to migrate to colonize the gonadal primordia at around seven weeks of gestation (W7, or five weeks post conception). Many germ cells are lost along the way and should enter apoptosis, but some escape and can give rise to extragonadal germ cell tumors. Due to the common somatic origin of gonads and adrenal cortex, we investigated whether ectopic germ cells were present in the human adrenals. Germ cells expressing DDX4 and/or POU5F1 were present in male and female human adrenals in the first and second trimester. However, in contrast to what has been described in mice, where 'adrenal' and 'ovarian' germ cells seem to enter meiosis in synchrony, we were unable to observe meiotic entry in human 'adrenal' germ cells until W22. By contrast, 'ovarian' germ cells at W22 showed a pronounced asynchronous meiotic entry. Interestingly, we observed that immature POU5F1+ germ cells in both first and second trimester ovaries still expressed the neural crest marker TUBB3, reminiscent of their migratory phase. Our findings highlight species-specific differences in early gametogenesis between mice and humans. We report the presence of a population of ectopic germ cells in the human adrenals during development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-94
Number of pages10
JournalBiology Open
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016

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