In mammals, primordial germ cells (PGCs), the origin of the germ line, are specified from the epiblast at the posterior region where gastrulation simultaneously occurs, yet the functional relationship between PGC specification and gastrulation remains unclear. Here, we show that OVOL2, a transcription factor conserved across the animal kingdom, balances these major developmental processes by repressing the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) that drives gastrulation and the upregulation of genes associated with PGC specification. Ovol2a, a splice variant encoding a repressor domain, directly regulates EMT-related genes and, consequently, induces re-acquisition of potential pluripotency during PGC specification, whereas Ovol2b, another splice variant missing the repressor domain, directly upregulates genes associated with PGC specification. Taken together, these results elucidate the molecular mechanism underlying allocation of the germ line among epiblast cells differentiating into somatic cells through gastrulation.

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