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FACS-sorted putative oogonial stem cells from the ovary are neither DDX4-positive nor germ cells.


Whether the adult mammalian ovary contains oogonial stem cells (OSCs) is controversial. They have been isolated by a live-cell sorting method using the germ cell marker DDX4, which has previously been assumed to be cytoplasmic, not surface-bound. Furthermore their stem cell and germ cell characteristics remain disputed. Here we show that although OSC-like cells can be isolated from the ovary using an antibody to DDX4, there is no good in silico modelling to support the existence of a surface-bound DDX4. Furthermore these cells when isolated were not expressing DDX4, and did not initially possess germline identity. Despite these unremarkable beginnings, they acquired some pre-meiotic markers in culture, including DDX4, but critically never expressed oocyte-specific markers, and furthermore were not immortal but died after a few months. Our results suggest that freshly isolated OSCs are not germ stem cells, and are not being isolated by their DDX4 expression. However it may be that culture induces some pre-meiotic markers. In summary the present study offers weight to the dogma that the adult ovary is populated by a fixed number of oocytes and that adult de novo production is a rare or insignificant event.