Mouse primordial germ cells produce cysts that partially fragment prior to meiosis

Lei Lei, Allan C. Spradling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Mammalian germ cells divide mitotically and form nests of associated cells just prior to entering meiosis. At least some nests contain germline cysts that arise by synchronous, incomplete mitotic divisions, but others may form by aggregation. To systematically investigate early murine germ cell development, we lineage marked the progeny of individual, newly arrived primordial germ cells in the E10.5 gonad. All the marked germ cells initially develop into clones containing two, four or eight cells, indicating cyst formation. Surprisingly, growing cysts in both sexes partially fragment into smaller cysts prior to completion and associate with cysts from unrelated progenitors. At the time divisions cease, female clones comprise five cysts on average that eventually give rise to about six primordial follicles. Male cyst cells break apart and probably become spermatogonial stem cells. Thus, cysts are invariant units of mouse germ cell development and cyst fragmentation provides insight into the amplification of spermatogonial stem cells and the origin of primordial follicles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2075-2081
Number of pages7
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Cyst
  • Germ cell
  • Lineage labeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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