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Models of germ cell development and their application for toxicity studies.

  • Author(s): Ferreira, Daniel W;
  • Allard, Patrick
  • et al.

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Germ cells are unique in their ability to transfer genetic information and traits from generation to generation. As such, the proper development of germ cells and the integrity of their genome are paramount to the health of organisms and the survival of species. Germ cells are also exquisitely sensitive to environmental influences although the testing of germ cell toxicity, especially in females, has proven particularly challenging. In this review, we first describe the remarkable odyssey of germ cells in mammals, with an emphasis on the female germline, from their initial specification early during embryogenesis to the generation of mature gametes in adults. We also describe the current methods used in germ cell toxicity testing and their limitations in examining the complex features of mammalian germ cell development. To bypass these challenges, we propose the use of alternative model systems such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans, and in vitro germ cell methods that have distinct advantages over traditional toxicity models. We discuss the benefits and limitations of each approach, their application to germ cell toxicity studies, and the need for computational approaches to maximize the usefulness of these models. Together, the inclusion of these alternative germ cell toxicity models will be invaluable for the examination of stages not easily accessible in mammals as well as the large scale, high-throughput investigation of germ cell toxicity.

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