Mass isolation of live primordial germ cells (PGCs) was demonstrated for the first time in ectothermal vertebrates. To establish a stem cell-mediated gene transfer system in fish, a stem cell line that retains the ability to develop into gametes is necessary. PGCs are well suited for use as the initial material for such a stem cell line. We established transgenic rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) strains carrying the green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene driven by a rainbow trout vasa-like gene (RtVLG) promoter/enhancer. Because GFP expression was specific to the PGCs, PGCs were successfully visualized in all developmental stages examined. Isolated genital ridges containing GFP-labeled PGCs were enzymatically dissociated. To isolate PGCs from the complex pools of dissociated genital ridges, GFP-labeled cells were sorted by flow cytometry. The sorted GFP-positive cells were large and round with a large nucleus, typical characters of PGC morphology. The expression of RtVLG was detected only in the GFP-positive cell population, confirming that these cells were PGCs. This simple and efficient technique to purify a large number of viable PGCs opens the way for establishing a stem cell line, which can differentiate into the germline. The purified PGCs would also be a novel tool for cellular and molecular study of vertebrate germline stem cells.
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