Indexed on: 03 Oct '15Published on: 03 Oct '15Published in: Worm
Adult tissue maintenance is achieved through a tightly controlled equilibrium of 2 opposing cell fates: stem cell proliferation and differentiation. In recent years, the germ line emerged as a powerful in vivo model tissue to investigate the underlying gene expression mechanisms regulating this balance. Studies in numerous organisms highlighted the prevalence of post-transcriptional mRNA regulation, which relies on RNA-targeting factors that influence mRNA fates (e.g. decay or translational efficiency). Conserved translational repressors were identified that build negative feedback loops to ensure one or the other cell fate. However, to facilitate a fast and efficient transition between 2 opposing cell fates, translational repression per se appears not to be sufficient, suggesting the involvement of additional modes of gene expression regulation. Cytoplasmic poly(A) polymerases (cytoPAPs) represent a unique class of post-transcriptional mRNA regulators that modify mRNA 3' ends and positively influence cytoplasmic mRNA fates. We recently discovered that the 2 main cytoPAPs, GLD-2 and GLD-4, use distinct mechanisms to promote gene expression and that cytoPAP-mediated mRNA activation is important for regulating the size of the proliferative germ cell pool in the adult Caenorhabditis elegans gonad. Here, we comment on the different mechanisms of the 2 cytoPAPs as translational activators in germ cell development and focus on their biological roles in maintaining the balance between germline stem cell proliferation and differentiation in the Caenorhabditis elegans gonad.