Germ cells, represented by male sperm and female eggs, are specialized cells that transmit genetic material from one generation to the next during sexual reproduction. The mechanism by which multicellular organisms achieve the proper separation of germ cells and somatic cells is one of the longest standing issues in developmental biology. In many animal groups, a specialized portion of the egg cytoplasm, or germ plasm, is inherited by the cell lineage that gives rise to the germ cells (germline). Germ plasm contains maternal factors that are sufficient for germline formation. In the fruit fly, Drosophila, germ plasm is referred to as polar plasm and is distinguished histologically by the presence of polar granules, which act as a repository for the maternal factors required for germline formation. Molecular screens have so far identified several of these factors that are enriched in the polar plasm. This article focuses on the molecular functions of two such factors in Drosophila, mitochondrial ribosomal RNAs and Nanos protein, which are required for the formation and differentiation of the germline progenitors, respectively.
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