Sexual reproduction is the main reproductive strategy of the vast majority of Eukaryotic species. This strategy requires the development of a highly specialized cell lineage, the germ line, which is the truly immortal cell population in higher Eukaryotes. In fact, it is precisely the germ line that unites the past, present and future of each species.
The germ line essentially needs to fulfill two distinct tasks: meiosis, to give rise to recombined half sets of the genome, and subsequently to differentiate into fertilizable cell types (the gametes).
One of the most striking properties of meiosis is its duration in females. Meiosis can last for a substantial part of female’s lifespan of females: up to 40 years in humans. Such length reflects the discontinuous nature of the meiotic program and poses an important hurdle to germ line cells: how to conjugate gene expression with the prolonged chromosome packing required for meiotic cell division?
Some species seem to have devised elaborate strategies to counter this problem. For instance, the germ line of some insects, such as Drosophila, contains non-meiotic cells whose function is to actively engage in gene expression in support of the developing oocyte. Nevertheless, and although mostly quiescence, the meiotic oocyte nucleus still engages is some degree of transcription.
Our aim is to understand the function and regulation of the meiotic oocyte gene expression. We hypothesize that oocyte transcription is important for meiosis and acquisition of full developmental competence.