We had previously reported that the Suppression Subtractive Hybridization (SSH) approach was relevant for the isolation of new mammalian genes involved in oogenesis and early follicle development. Some of these transcripts might be potential new oocyte and granulosa cell markers. We have now characterized one of them, named TOPAZ1 for the Testis and Ovary-specific PAZ domain gene. Sheep and mouse TOPAZ1 mRNA have 4,803 bp and 4,962 bp open reading frames (20 exons), respectively, and encode putative TOPAZ1 proteins containing 1,600 and 1653 amino acids. They possess PAZ and CCCH domains. In sheep, TOPAZ1 mRNA is preferentially expressed in females during fetal life with a peak during prophase I of meiosis, and in males during adulthood. In the mouse, Topaz1 is a germ cell-specific gene. TOPAZ1 protein is highly conserved in vertebrates and specifically expressed in mouse and sheep gonads. It is localized in the cytoplasm of germ cells from the sheep fetal ovary and mouse adult testis. We have identified a novel PAZ-domain protein that is abundantly expressed in the gonads during germ cell meiosis. The expression pattern of TOPAZ1, and its high degree of conservation, suggests that it may play an important role in germ cell development. Further characterization of TOPAZ1 may elucidate the mechanisms involved in gametogenesis, and particularly in the RNA silencing process in the germ line.
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