The cell cycle of primordial germ cells (PGCs), the embryonic precursors of gametes, is characterized by a mitotic phase common to both sexes and a mitotic-meiotic switch in the female. In the present work, we will review the results obtained in the last decade by studies aimed to clarify intrinsic and extrinsic regulatory signals of such processes, with particular reference to mouse PGCs. Besides providing a better understanding of how the gamete population is established in mammals, information about the players controlling the PGC cycle will be useful to clarify other intriguing aspects of germ cell biology such as the origin of germ cell tumours and the mechanisms allowing the maintenance of totipotency in the germ line.
Keywords: Primordial germ cells, cell cycle, gametogenesis, embryonic germ cells, meiosis, mitotic phase, regulatory signals, germ cell tumours, totipotency, germ line
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