The fate of any species depends on the quality of its germ cells. These highly specialized cells are the only ones capable of contributing genetic information to the next generation; every other cell in the body exists no longer than a single lifetime. Because germ cells are the repository of the future, the genome of these cells must be protected from mutations and other forms of damage.
However, germ cells are not simply passive carriers of genetic information, but must also undergo complex events such as meiosis, gametogenesis, and fertilization. To correctly implement these programs while preserving genome integrity, germ cells have a unique arsenal of tricks to control genes during germ cell development and function.
The nematode C. elegans is an ideal model system for exploring gene regulation in germ cells because it provides powerful genetics, cell biology, and genomics approaches to address outstanding questions in the field. Currently, we are investigating multiple transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms that distinguish the germ cell fate from the somatic cell fate.