The mechanisms underlying human germ cell development are largely unknown, partly due to the scarcity of primordial germ cells and the inaccessibility of the human germline to genetic analysis. Human embryonic stem cells can differentiate to germ cells in vitro and can be genetically modified to study the genetic requirements for germ cell development. Here, we studied NANOS3 and DAZL, which have critical roles in germ cell development in several species, via their over expression in human embryonic stem cells using global transcriptional analysis, in vitro germ cell differentiation, and in vivo germ cell formation assay by xenotransplantation. We found that NANOS3 over expression prolonged pluripotency and delayed differentiation. In addition, we observed a possible connection of NANOS3 with inhibition of apoptosis. For DAZL, our results suggest a post-transcriptional regulation mechanism in hES cells. In addition, we found that DAZL suppressed the translation of OCT4, and affected the transcription of several genes associated with germ cells, cell cycle arrest, and cell migration. Furthermore, DAZL over expressed cells formed spermatogonialike colonies in a rare instance upon xenotransplantation. These data can be used to further elucidate the role of NANOS3 and DAZL in germ cell development both in vitro and in vivo.
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