The zebrafish germline is specified during early embryogenesis by inherited maternal RNAs and proteins collectively called germ plasm. Only the cells containing germ plasm will become part of the germline, whereas the other cells will commit to somatic cell fates. Therefore, proper localization of germ plasm is key for germ cell specification and its removal is crucial for the development of the soma. The molecular mechanism underlying this process in vertebrates is largely unknown. Here, we show that germ plasm localization in zebrafish is similar to that in Xenopus but distinct from Drosophila. We identified non muscle myosin II (NMII) and tight junction (TJ) components, such as ZO2 and claudin-d (Cldn-d) as interaction candidates of Bucky ball (Buc), which is the germ plasm organizer in zebrafish. Remarkably, we also found that TJ protein ZO1 colocalizes with germ plasm, and electron microscopy of zebrafish embryos uncovered TJ-like structures at the cleavage furrows where the germ plasm is anchored. In addition, injection of the TJ receptor Cldn-d produced extra germ plasm aggregates, whereas expression of a dominant-negative version inhibited germ plasm aggregate formation. Our findings support for the first time a role for TJs in germ plasm localization.

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