Investigating the expression and function of DAZL and BOLL during human oogenesis
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Fetal germ cell development is a key stage of female reproductive life. The DAZ family proteins (DAZ, DAZL and BOLL) are RNA-binding proteins with critical roles in murine germ cell development but their expression and potential targets in the human are largely unknown. The studies in this Thesis investigated the expression and function of DAZL and BOLL in human fetal ovary. Both DAZL and BOLL mRNA are increased dramatically at the time of entry into meiosis. Immunohistochemical analysis with specific meiotic markers suggested that DAZL and BOLL have distinct spatial-temporal expression patterns, with minimal co-expression – BOLL expression was transient prior to follicle formation. This pattern was shown not to be present in the mouse fetal ovary, where Dazl and Boll are co-expressed, indicating a limitation of the mouse for exploring the function of Boll. Two human cell lines, embryonic kidney derived HEK293 cells and germ cell tumour derived TCam-2 cells were used as models to identify the mRNA targets of DAZL and BOLL after transfection of DAZL or BOLL vectors. In HEK293 cells, TEX19 and TEX14 were confirmed as potential targets of both DAZL and BOLL, and CDC25A as a potential DAZL target. Further experiments indicated that DAZL and BOLL did not increase target mRNA transcription but increased stabilisation. A DAZL/GFP co-transfection-FACS system for TCam-2 cells was established as this cell line has very low transfection efficiency. TEX14 and SYCP3 significantly increased in GFP+ve-DAZL+ve cells when compare to the GFP-ve-DAZL-ve cells, whilst SOX17 and DNMT3L significantly decreased in the GFP+ve-DAZL+ve cells. A 3'-UTR luciferase assay confirmed regulation of TEX14 and SOX17 by DAZL through their 3'-UTR. RNA immunoprecipitation further demonstrated direct binding between human TEX14, TEX19, SYCP3, SOX17 mRNA and DAZL protein, and that TEX14 binding is through its 3'-UTR. Dual fluorescence immunohistochemistry showed that SOX17 and DMNT3L are expressed in early germ cells with DAZL, and are later down-regulated co-incident with that of DAZL, consistent with the novel repressive effect of human DAZL on these two potential targets. These studies indicate that DAZL and BOLL are associated with different key meiotic stages of germ cell development in human fetal ovary. Several potential mRNA targets of DAZL and BOLL, and a novel repression function of human DAZL on its mRNA targets were identified giving further insight into the role of these factors in human ovarian development.