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Keywords:

  • germ line;
  • multipotent cells;
  • primordial germ cell;
  • Vasa;
  • zinc-knuckle

Abstract

Sexually reproducing metazoans establish a cell lineage during development that is ultimately dedicated to gamete production. Work in a variety of animals suggests that a group of conserved molecular determinants act in this germ line maintenance and function. The most universal of these genes are Vasa and Vasa-like DEAD-box RNA helicase genes. However, recent evidence indicates that Vasa genes also function in other cell types, distinct from the germ line. Here we evaluate our current understanding of Vasa function and its regulation during development, addressing Vasa's emerging role in multipotent cells. We also explore the evolutionary diversification of the N-terminal domain of this gene and how this impacts the association of Vasa with nuage-like perinuclear structures.