Stem cells and germ cells: microRNA and gene expression signatures
The study of primordial germ cell development in vivo is hampered by their low numbers and inaccessibility. Recent research has shown the ability of embryonic and adult stem cells to differentiate into primordial germ cells and more mature gametes and this generation of germ cells in vitro may be an attractive model for their study. One of the biggest challenges facing in vitro differentiation of stem cells into primordial germ cells is the lack of markers to clearly distinguish the two. As both cell types originate early in embryonic development they share many pluripotent markers such as OCT4, VASA, FRAGILIS, and NANOG. Genome wide microarray profiling has been used to identify transcriptome patterns unique to primordial germ cells. A more thorough analysis of the temporal and quantitative expression of a panel of genes may be more robust in distinguishing these two cell populations. MicroRNAs, short RNA molecules that have been shown to regulate translation through interactions with mRNA transcripts, have also recently come under investigation for the role they may play in pluripotency. Attempts to elucidate key microRNAs responsible for both stem cell and primordial germ cell characteristics have recently been undertaken. Unique microRNAs, either individually or as global profiles, may also help to distinguish differentiated primordial germ cells from stem cells in vitro. This review will examine gene expression and microRNA signatures in stem cells and germ cells as ways to distinguish these closely related cell types.
Paul William Dyce, Derek Toms, and Julang Li. "Stem cells and germ cells: microRNA and gene expression signatures" Histology and Histopathology 25.4 (2010): 505-513.