Date: 28 Jun 2012

Using Caenorhabditis to Explore the Evolution of the Germ Line

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Abstract

Germ cells share core attributes and homologous molecular components across animal phyla. Nevertheless, abrupt shifts in reproductive mode often occur that are mediated by the rapid evolution of germ cell properties. Studies of Caenorhabditis nematodes show how the otherwise conserved RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) that regulate germline development and differentiation can undergo surprisingly rapid functional evolution. This occurs even as the narrow biochemical tasks performed by the RBPs remain constant. The biological roles of germline RBPs are thus highly context-dependent, and the inference of archetypal roles from isolated models in different phyla may therefore be premature.