Germ cell differentiation in vertebrates and invertebrates

This research line aims to clarify aspects of specification and differentiation of the germ cells utilizing specific molecular markers and studing the cytoskeleton organization.

The VASA protein, a DEAD-box RNA helicase that functions as translational control of specific mRNA, is a molecular marker and a key determinant of primordial germ cells (PGCs), first identified in Drosophila and later in other invertebrates and many vertebrates. With anti-VASA specific antibodies and confocal microscopy, the VASA protein expression was analyzed during gametogenesis in both vertebrates (Podarcis sicula, a scaly reptile), and invertebrates (Ruditapes philippinarum, a bivalve mollusc) highlighting the role of VASA in the germ line specification. In addition, the study of cytoskeleton microtubules, in particular, and the use of nuclear dyes, have allowed to describe the differenzation stages of male and female germ cells in the analyzed species. In the future, these studies will be also extended to other organisms using additional molecular markers.