Genetic dissection of Nodal and Bmp signalling requirements during primordial germ cell development in mouse.
Senft AD., Bikoff EK., Robertson EJ., Costello I.
The essential roles played by Nodal and Bmp signalling during early mouse development have been extensively documented. Here we use conditional deletion strategies to investigate functional contributions made by Nodal, Bmp and Smad downstream effectors during primordial germ cell (PGC) development. We demonstrate that Nodal and its target gene Eomes provide early instructions during formation of the PGC lineage. We discover that Smad2 inactivation in the visceral endoderm results in increased numbers of PGCs due to an expansion of the PGC niche. Smad1 is required for specification, whereas in contrast Smad4 controls the maintenance and migration of PGCs. Additionally we find that beside Blimp1, down-regulated phospho-Smad159 levels also distinguishes PGCs from their somatic neighbours so that emerging PGCs become refractory to Bmp signalling that otherwise promotes mesodermal development in the posterior epiblast. Thus balanced Nodal/Bmp signalling cues regulate germ cell versus somatic cell fate decisions in the early posterior epiblast.