The mechanisms regulating meiotic initiation in mammals are enigmatic. It is known that retinoic acid (RA) signaling plays a pivotal role during meiotic initiation. STRA8, which is expressed in response to RA, is thought to be a key factor promoting meiotic initiation. However, the specific role of STRA8 in meiotic initiation has remained elusive. Here, we identified MEIOSIN as a germ-cell-specific factor that associates with STRA8. MEIOSIN, like STRA8, is expressed in response to RA and plays an essential role in meiotic initiation in both males and females. Functional analyses revealed that MEIOSIN acts as a transcription factor together with STRA8, and that both factors are critical for driving meiotic gene activation. Furthermore, temporally restricted expression of MEIOSIN leads to meiotic entry decision during spermatogenesis. The present study demonstrates that MEIOSIN, in collaboration with STRA8, plays a central role in regulating the mitosis to meiosis germ cell fate decision in mammals. Although meiosis is a fundamental and well-studied biological process, the molecular mechanisms regulating its initiation are poorly understood. Ishiguro et al. identify MEIOSIN as a key initiator of meiosis and elucidate a framework for understanding how switching of the cell cycle from mitosis to meiosis occurs in the mammalian germline.
ASJC Scopus subject areas