The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 55: 909 - 916 (2011)

Vol 55, Issue 10-11-12

A possible role of Reproductive homeobox 6 in primordial germ cell differentiation

Original Article | Published: 12 December 2011

Chang Liu, Paichi Tsai, Ana-Marie García, Brandon Logeman and Tetsuya S. Tanaka*

Department of Animal Sciences, Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA


Rhox6 is one of the Reproductive Homeobox genes on the X chromosome (Rhox) that is expressed in the placenta and the post-migratory primordial germ cells (PGCs) in the nascent gonad. Despite its novel expression pattern, the significance of Rhox6 expression in the differentiation of these cell types remains unknown. To investigate the role that Rhox6 plays in PGCs, cDNA encoding Rhox6 and short-hairpin (sh) RNA directed against Rhox6 transcripts were introduced by unique expression vectors into a genetically engineered mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC) line. This ESC line expresses enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) under the Oct3/4 promoter, thereby allowing us to monitor the presence of undifferentiated ESCs and PGCs in culture in real time. This ESC line was used to isolate clones that stably expressed Rhox6 cDNA, shRNA against Rhox6 transcripts, or controls. Quantitative RT-PCR results validated that overexpression had been achieved, as well as knockdown of Rhox6 transcripts in these ESC clones. However, these clones exhibited a normal appearance of undifferentiated ESCs and expressed EGFP. Next, these ESC clones were induced to differentiate into PGCs by generating embryoid bodies (EBs) in culture medium without leukemia inhibitory factor. Detection of EGFP expression by fluorescence microscopy and germ cell markers by RT-PCR validated the differentiation of PGCs in EBs. The Rhox6 transgene had little, if any, effect on EGFP expression in EBs, whereas Rhox6 knockdown significantly decreased EGFP expression in EBs. Thus, it is suggested with these results that Rhox6 is necessary for determination of the germ cell lineage.


mouse embryonic stem cell, primordial germ cell, Rhox, short-hairpin RNA

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