Male and female germ cells enter meiosis in response to an extrinsic cue by retinoic acid (RA), but the pathways downstream of RA signaling that regulate early gametogenesis remain uncertain. We identified a novel reproductive homeobox gene, Rhox13, transcribed in the prenatal ovary and testis beginning on Embryonic Day (E) 13.5. Translation of RHOX13 also begins in female germ cells on E13.5 but is suppressed in male germ cells until Postnatal Day 3. Translation of RHOX13 coincides with initiation of RA signaling in both male and female gonads in vivo but occurs precociously in neonatal testes exposed to RA in vitro or in fetal male germ cells when NANOS2 is absent in vivo. Conversely, RHOX13 translation in female germ cells is suppressed in the presence of ectopically induced NANOS2. These results strongly suggest that RHOX13 expression is regulated at a posttranscriptional step by direct interaction of NANOS2 with Rhox13 mRNA to suppress translation.
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Vol. 86 • No. 4