Polycomb directs timely activation of germline genes in spermatogenesis

So Maezawa, Kazuteru Hasegawa, Masashi Yukawa, Akihiko Sakashita, Kris G. Alavattam, Paul R. Andreassen, Miguel Vidal, Haruhiko Koseki, Artem Barski, Satoshi H. Namekawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


During spermatogenesis, a large number of germline genes essential for male fertility are coordinately activated. However, it remains unknown how timely activation of this group of germline genes is accomplished. Here we show that Polycomb-repressive complex 1 (PRC1) directs timely activation of germline genes during spermatogenesis. Inactivation of PRC1 in male germ cells results in the gradual loss of a stem cell population and severe differentiation defects, leading to male infertility. In the stem cell population, RNF2, the dominant catalytic subunit of PRC1, activates transcription of Sall4, which codes for a transcription factor essential for subsequent spermatogenic differentiation. Furthermore, RNF2 and SALL4 together occupy transcription start sites of germline genes in the stem cell population. Once differentiation commences, these germline genes are activated to enable the progression of spermatogenesis. Our study identifies a novel mechanism by which Polycomb directs the developmental process by activating a group of lineage-specific genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1693-1703
Number of pages11
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Aug 15
Externally publishedYes


  • Gene activation
  • Germline
  • Polycomb
  • Spermatogenesis
  • Spermatogonia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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